Poor Children by Parents' Nativity: What Do We Know?

Wight, Vanessa; Chau, Michelle M.; Thampi, Kalyani

Immigration in the United States has held a longstanding and transformative role in shaping the country's social and economic landscape. State and local policies have, likewise, responded to the changing presence and composition of immigrants in American society. Yet, significant gaps in policies that address the unique experience of children in immigrant families still remain. As the number of children of immigrant parents increases, policies that meet their needs in areas such as education, health care, and economic security will become necessary. Currently, 17.2 million children residing in the U.S. have a parent who is foreign-born and 4.2 million children of immigrant parents are poor. High poverty rates among children of immigrant parents, coupled with unique social and economic challenges, make them particularly disadvantaged when compared with children of native-born parents. This poses a significant policy challenge, as poverty and other material hardships can have deleterious effects on a child's long-term health and well-being. More importantly, as this brief suggests, children of immigrant parents experience poverty that is different from poor children of native-born parents. For example, poor children of immigrant parents are more likely than their native-born counterparts to live in households where at least one parent works full-time, year-round. Moreover, poor children of immigrant families are less likely to receive food stamps than poor children of native-born parents. These findings suggest that child poverty in immigrant families is not necessarily linked to joblessness; rather, it is more closely connected to low-wage work and barriers to valuable work supports. Examining the landscape of poverty among children of immigrant parents will help to identify policy interventions that support healthy development and long-term economic security. Research suggests that children not only differ by the nativity of their parents (native- versus foreign-born), but that children of immigrant parents are themselves a diverse population. Studies show that duration of stay within the U.S. plays a critical role in determining long-term health well-being among children of immigrant parents. This brief takes into consideration the diversity among children of foreign- born parents by not only considering whether parents were born in the U.S. or abroad, but by also considering how long foreign-born parents have resided in the U.S. This is an important distinction when examining differences among children by parents' nativity. Thus, the purpose of this brief is to examine differences among children of native-born parents, children of recent immigrant families, and children of established immigrant families across a range of socio-demographic characteristics. Promoting positive outcomes for young children in immigrant families requires a deeper understanding of the population itself. To this end, the brief provides a more nuanced look at poor children living with immigrant parents by expanding the definition of the immigrant experience to include not only parents' nativity but also their duration of stay in the U.S.

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National Center for Children in Poverty
National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University
Published Here
July 19, 2011