The Lies about Anchor Babies

My father was born in New York City to two non-citizens who were in the U.S. for a few years, left and never returned. In his twenties, he returned to the U.S. and joined the military, I am pretty sure because it was the one thing he could think of that would most piss off his parents. A few years later, he met and married my mother and now here we all are, a whole family of “credits to our race”.

kid with lollipop

When I tell this to conservative friends, they insist, as they have all my life, that “No, no, we’re not talking about YOUR family, but those OTHER Hispanics that come over here and drop babies just so they can get welfare, WIC and benefit from the American taxpayer while we all do without services.”

One of my former teammates said,

“Those stories in the media must be coming from somewhere.”

I told her, yes, they’re coming from the same place as the stories that our president is a Muslim, Kenyan whose American-born mother for some reason felt the need fifty years ago to place fake birth announcements in the Hawaiian newspapers so that her baby could one day be a U.S. citizen and be president. Oh, wait, children of U.S. citizens ARE citizens, no matter where they are born, like Senator John McCain, who was born in Panama, of U.S. parents.

Having data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, I thought I would interrupt with actual facts. The data come from the American Community Survey, 1% sample of the U.S. To make it easier to analyze, I just downloaded the state of California. If people are coming from Mexico to have babies, I’d think this would be the closest place, rather than say, New Hampshire. So if there really are these hordes of babies being born of mothers who just came for welfare benefits, we should find them here.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform says,

An anchor baby is defined as an offspring of an illegal immigrant or other non-citizen, who under current legal interpretation becomes a United States citizen at birth. These children may instantly qualify for welfare and other state and local benefit programs.

The same site gives examples of hospitals where “over 70% of babies are born to illegal aliens” and expresses concern about “chain migration” where babies when they become 21 years old can sponsor relatives to the U.S. According to the Orwellian-named “Accuracy in Media” site the U.S. spends $6 billion a year on Mexican anchor babies.

There are a few parts of this story that need to be checked out:

  1. Huge numbers of Mexicans are having babies in California
  2. The parents are not U.S. citizens
  3. They just (as in, very recently) came here to have a baby
  4. Their reason for having the baby is so they can claim citizenship status
  5. They also want to come here so they can not work and take advantage of our welfare system

First number,based on the question “Did you have a baby in the last twelve months?” This question is only asked to women (duh!) who are over 14 years of age and under 50 years of age.

Number of births to all Californians in 2009:  531,749

Next let’s look at the number of births to Hispanics in California:

Number of births to mothers of Hispanic descent in California in 2009:  256,455

Of course, most Hispanics are citizens.  If your mother is a citizen, you’ll be a U.S. citizen no matter where you are born. It’s in the constitution. So, how many children were born to Hispanic mothers who are not citizens?

Number of births to mothers of Hispanic descent in California in 2009 who are not citizens: 107,811

Before you get too excited, you need to realize that if EITHER your father OR your mother is a U.S. citizen, you are a citizen. That is, if your dad’s a citizen, mom doesn’t need to make a trek from Mexico when she’s nine months pregnant. Wherever in the world you are born, you’re a citizen, which is why my oldest brother who was born on an air force base in Japan, is American.  For this next step, I had to make an assumption which is that if you are a woman who had a baby and is living with an adult male, he is the father.

What I want to establish is whether the mother or father is a citizen. You could argue that adult male could be HER father. Well, in that case, the mother would be a citizen. If your father (or mother) is a citizen when you are born or  becomes a naturalized citizen before you turn 18 years old, bingo, you’re a citizen.

Number of births in households to mothers of Hispanic descent where neither parent is a citizen in California in 2009:  71,343

Lie #1: There are a huge proportion of births to non-citizens

First of all, let me point out that the proper term for these children, born in the United States is “U.S. citizens” .

Now, California has approximately28% of the Hispanic population of the country (13.7 million out of the 48.4 million). If the birthrate here is proportional that would mean that the entire country would have 1/.28 * 71,343 or

Estimated births in 2009 to Hispanic non-citizens = 254,786

The total number of births in 2009 was 4,136,000

Births of children to Hispanic non-citizen parents = 6.2% of births

While the 70% figures given by the inflammatory websites cited above give the impression that a large percentage of babies born in the U.S. are to non-citizens, I guess those were not intended to be taken as factual statements.

Lie #2: Children of non-citizens cost a large percentage of the budget

Now, California has approximately28% of the Hispanic population of the country (13.7 million out of the 48.4 million) and 66% of Hispanics are Mexicans. Multiplying out these figures we get   –  168,159

Dividing $6 billion by 168,159 I get $35,680 for each child. Where exactly is that $35,680 coming from? It’s not welfare. The average monthly payment for a single mother with one child in the state of Texas is $225. Look it up. In California, a family of three  – a mom and two children, receives $750 a month. Nationwide, the average is $425 a month.

So, if EVERY child is on welfare  the cost is $71,467,575 a year which according to CBS News, is about what the federal government spends in 11 minutes.

Lie #3 : Pregnant women are coming here to have babies just so they can stay in the United States

I should point out one fact that checked out from the hate speech websites is the average non-citizen woman giving birth already has a child over age five who is a U.S. citizen. In fact, of those 71,343 mothers who gave birth, the majority already had a child over five who was a U.S. citizen, which presumably means they have lived here over five years.

Number of Hispanic mothers giving birth in families in which this child was the first citizen in the household: 33,915

Incidentally, that represents 6.4% of California births, and that includes all Hispanics, not just Mexicans. The only reason I used only Mexicans in the previous analysis is that the claim of $6 billion spent per year referred specifically to children born of Mexican parents.

I did not get to the part yet about the GREAT majority of households in which the parents were working. One reason for that is that there was a lot of missing data on the employment variables I wanted to use.

I could go on more but I have to get back and do some work for actual pay.


I compared the percentage of Hispanics in the population estimates from the American Community Survey and the total population of the state of California to the U.S. Census Bureau’s facts on California and came up with the identical numbers, 37.0% and 36,961,664.

The number of births of 531,749 compares well to the 526,774 reported by the California Department of Finance demographic report. Since the two don’t cover the exact same time period, we would not expect identical numbers, but the estimate from the American Community Survey is only off by 0.9% and it is actually higher, so if there is an invasion of anchor babies, this is actually in the direction to support their hypothesis.

I plan on doing more analyses to check more on this topic. Please feel free to post any suggestions. If anyone wants to take a look at my SAS code, it’s really very simple, I can email it to you or post it here. If you find any errors, I would be happy to have them pointed out.

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  1. Hey I’m trying to get info from the census in regards to what percentage of children born to non-citizen parents in California, are Latino. If you could help me out with a link or some info I”d appreciate it.


    I’m writing a paper on targeting these children to receive SNAP.

  2. Check the Pew Hispanic Center. If they don’t have the data on their site you can compute that figure using the public use files from census.

    I’m kind of busy today but next time I get a minute I’ll try running that and see what it is.

  3. Your piece makes the case for banning birthright citizenship. Repeatly you give examples of US citizens born off-shore who by birthright are American citizens. That’s the point! These babies acquired the citizenship status of their parents. No matter where in the world a child is born it should have the same citizenship as its parents, and if the parents each have different citizenship then the child is granted dual citizenship (if allowable by the laws of the countries). 

    I am as liberal as they come. And for me this isn’t an argument about the drain on America resources, or over population. It’s about logical common sense. If your parents are citizens of one country, and you were born in another – you should have the same citizenship status as your parents, and be entitled to the rights, laws and benefits of that country.

  4. You saying “It’s about logical common sense” doesn’t make it true.

    To me, a lot more logical common sense is that if I was born in this country, grew up here, speak the language and never lived anywhere else that I am a citizen of the United States. It’s logical common sense that if we have had birthright citizenship since this country was founded, for hundreds of years and when all of a sudden when it appears the majority will no longer be white, all of a sudden there is a problem. Seems racial undertones to me. It’s just logical common sense.

  5. I have to say this: I live in California and have 3 kids who are half hispanic. I live in a place that stopped border patrol in 2003. The amount of people who provide matricula -(card obtained by an undocumented for ID) and wic/ebt at the store is amazingly noted in my mind. WIC creates a longer wait period. I also understand spanish, when a man was paying with wic his female half came requested in spanish I move and there were 4 cases of corona in her cart. He said in spanish, we get more beer because of the free food. That statement irritated me, and hopefully does not represent the thoughts of most receiving benefits. I will say, no one seems embarrassed nor do they seem to speak english. I say hello I try to be friendly. They do not have a clue when I say it is a beautiful day isn’t it. That tells me that they are content on welfare, as we have free English lessons in 3 convenient locations in this small city. they provide free childcare – so that is not an excuse. I also know for a fact that many work under the table – and collect. That also concerns me. I love hispanic people. I am not in favor of immigrating without permission. Fraud regardless of race is wrong. Now we want to give them DREAM college tuition discounts – however – the fed dream has to pass for them to use the education for a job to work legally here. I do not agree with your statistics, however, I thank you for sharing 🙂 I love people we have a process if it is not followed there is no reason to have a process. 1/3 of the people in cali are on welfare now.. I wonder why.. it is necessay to sustain life. However, there is a ton of fraud, it is hard to catch when you can obtain it with no social.

  6. I wonder where you obtained your statistics that 1/3 of the people in California are on welfare now. I can’t believe that is the correct. Can you provide me the source? When I cite statistics I document them.

    As for fraud – yes, it does exist, regardless of race or ethnicity and, like you, it troubles me. I would respond more but even though it is Sunday, I have a meeting with a client.

  7. having a bad experience doesnt always mean that everyone is like that. To some people, Aid helps and others it doesnt. I’m a legal immigrant from England who got aid and every small piece from EBT to WIC and College Aid helped me. I’m currently going towards a degree in game design thanks to government aid. We can’t punish people who need the money because of fraud. We need to combat fraud better

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