Equity & Diversity Report Roundup

Study: Illegal Status Harmful to Children

By Sarah D. Sparks — September 27, 2011 1 min read

Many immigrants come to the United States seeking a better life for their children, but a new report says children who come to the country illegally face worse social and academic development as they grow.

The report, published as part of a special fall issue on immigration in the Harvard Educational Review, is the first to analyze research on the effect of living in a family of uncertain immigration status on children from early childhood through their entry to college and career.

Researchers from Harvard University and New York University estimate one in 10 children and adolescents—about 5.5 million nationwide—grow up with at least one parent “unauthorized,” and 1 million of those children have that status themselves. The researchers found a “consistent pattern” across studies of education, health, labor, and other areas: “The effects of unauthorized status on development across the lifespan are uniformly negative, with millions of U.S. children and youth at risk of lower educational performance, economic stagnation, blocked mobility, and ambiguous belonging.”

Even when children had U.S. citizenship themselves, they had less access to early-childhood education and services, from Head Start to health care, because parents either did not know how or were afraid to apply for them. The study found such children also were more likely than other children to live in poverty and in racially and linguistically isolated communities, to attend poorly supported schools, and to be absent from school.

Those immigrant parents were less likely to be involved in their childrens education, in part because of fear of drawing the attention of authorities, and the students lived in perpetual fear of being separated from their families because of deportation, according to the report.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 2011 edition of Education Week as Study: Illegal Status Harmful to Children

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