Equity & Diversity

Kids Count: Immigrants and Their Children Face Challenges on Path to Opportunity

By Corey Mitchell — October 24, 2017 3 min read
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Children of immigrants are more likely to struggle in school and more likely to live in poverty, a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report concludes.

The report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, examines the disparities in opportunities for children of immigrants and explores the toll the threat of losing their parents to deportation or detention can take on those children.

Nationally, there are 18 million children who live with immigrant parents. The vast majority of these children, 88 percent, are U.S. citizens; at least 5 million of them have at least one parent who is undocumented.

The report concludes that limited opportunities available to immigrants and their children can complicate their lives—and argues that addressing their needs simultaneously can improve the educational and economic well-being of both generations.

“We need all children to reach their full potential if we are to reach ours as a nation,” the report authors wrote. “Children in immigrant families, like their predecessors in previous centuries, will end up contributing to the nation’s prosperity if given a chance.”

Children of immigrants often face roadblocks—such as poverty and lack of access to early-childhood education—along their path to reaching that potential. They represent less than a quarter of the nation’s population of children, but account for nearly a third of those from low-income families, the report found.

On average, children of immigrants are also more likely to struggle in school and on standardized tests. The Casey Foundation report found that a smaller percentage of English-language-learner students from immigrant families score at or above proficient on state reading and math tests when compared to students from non-immigrant families.

To complicate matters, past research and analysis has found that many schools are unprepared to address the needs of immigrant students. A 2016 report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research and policy analysis group at the University of Washington, found that new student populations often tax districts’ funding sources, highlight the need for a more diverse teaching corps, and reveal divisive community sentiment about immigrants.

To address these issues, the report recommends that local, state, and federal governments work to:

  • Pass immigration policies that help keep families together when making decisions about deporting or detaining parents.
  • Knock down the language and cultural barriers that can keep immigrant families from enrolling their children in Head Start programs or using child-care subsidies to access quality early-childhood education programs that can help narrow achievement gaps.
  • Link more immigrant parents with workforce development and basic adult education programs, and help them understand what public programs, such as food and housing assistance, are available to them.

The “Race for Results” report details the disparity in opportunities that exist for different groups of children in every state across the country. Over the six years that the Casey Foundation has tracked data, disparities between racial groups have persisted despite improvements in overall child well-being.

Here’s a look at the report.

For Further Reading and Viewing

Refugee Students Don’t Negatively Affect the Education of Peers, Study Finds

How Should Schools Respond to the Concerns of Undocumented Families?

Election’s Intolerant Tone Stoke Fears for Latino Students

In U.S. Schools, Undocumented Youths Strive to Adjust

For Schools With Child Immigrants, What Resources Are Available?

Suburban Schools Unprepared for Influx of Immigrant Students

To Help Language-Learners, Extend Aid to Their Families Too, Study Argues

Image: Annie E. Casey Foundation 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity For All Children

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.