New IFS Study Finds Indian Americans Rank at the Top in Family Stability
Indian American supporters cheer as Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi speaks at NRG Stadium on Sept. 22, 2019 in Houston, Texas. According to a new study, as a group, immigrant families tend to be more stable than families of native-born Americans, with Indian Americans ranking at the top in family stability. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
By REENA RATHORE/India-West Staff Reporter
With the share of immigrants in the U.S. population near a historic high of about 14 percent, or 45 million, a new analysis of census data published by the Institute for Family Studies has highlighted the strength of immigrant families.
According to the analysis, as a group, immigrant families tend to be more stable than families of native-born Americans, with Indian Americans ranking at the top in family stability among the 30 largest groups of working-age immigrants in the U.S.
Specifically, 72 percent of immigrants with children are still in their first marriage, whereas the share among native-born Americans is just 60 percent, it said, adding that behind these numbers are the relatively higher marriage rates and lower divorce rates of immigrants in general.
The study highlighted that Indian immigrants not only top the list of family stability but are also one of the most highly educated and financially successful immigrant groups.
Almost all (first-generation) Indian immigrants with children are stably married (94 percent), according to an IFS analysis of the 2019 American Community Survey. About four percent are remarried, and the share of unmarried Indian immigrants with children is only 2 percent, per the analysis.
The conventional wisdom that higher education and higher income drive family stability applies to immigrant families to some extent, noted Wendy Wang, director of research at the Institute for Family Studies and study author.
For example, immigrants from Asia tend to have higher educational levels than other immigrants and their family stability is also higher. More than six-in-10 Asian immigrants with children are college-educated (64 percent), compared with 13 percent of their Hispanic peers, she wrote.
Compared with native-born American parents, however, immigrants with children overall have lower levels of education and higher rates of poverty, according to the study, which pointed out that yet, immigrant families are more stable than native-born American families.
The study noted that while Indian immigrants have the highest family stability – 94 percent of Indian immigrants with children are stably married – the share of intact marriage drops to 87 percent among native-born Indian Americans with children, despite the fact that they have higher incomes than the first-generation Indian immigrants, and their educational levels are equally high.
“After controlling for education, income and age, Indian immigrants are more than twice likely to be in an intact family than native-born Indian Americans,” Wang wrote in the study.
Wang suggested that “culture” plays a big role in making immigrants stand out because education and income alone cannot explain this family advantage of first-generation immigrants.
Immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to embrace a family-first mindset when it comes to marriage and children, according to an IFS survey conducted in California, which said that nearly 70 percent of immigrants said that it is very important for them to be married before having children, compared with 62 percent of native-born Californians.
“The individualism in American culture has its virtues but is at odds with stable marriage and families. As we know, marriage is not only about personal happiness and fulfillment but also family solidarity,” Wang wrote. “…The familism that immigrants embrace not only provides them a safe harbor when facing the challenges as newcomers, it also helps to provide a better environment for their children to advance in life.”
According to a recent analysis by IFS senior fellow Nicholas Zill, children of immigrants are doing surprisingly well in school: they are more likely to get “As” and are less likely to have behavior problems.
According to the analysis, “the reason for their academic success is not because these children are from better-off families (in fact, the majority of them are not), it is partly because they are more likely to live in intact families with two married parents.”