The Changing Family Structure of American Children with Unauthorized Parents

Report Author: 
Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Esther Arenas-Arroyo
Original Date of Publication: 
November, 2017

During the period from 2009 to 2013, the U.S. carried out 1.8 million deportations, most of them involving fathers and heads of households. This paper examines the impact of these deportations on U.S.-born children, specifically the likelihood that they are now living in single-parent households or with friends or other family members. The authors cite literature showing that the absence of a parent increases school drop-out rates, raises teen pregnancy rates, and limits future earnings. Thus, they write, "gaining a better understanding of the impacts of intensified immigration enforcement on the families in which they grow up is well warranted." The researchers use a control group of foreign-born families with similar demographic characteristics but without the burden of undocumented status. They find "that a one standard deviation in the enforcement index (equal to the average level of immigration enforcement for the period under consideration) raises the children's propensity to reside without their parents in a household headed by naturalized relatives or friends by 18.8 percent." The same set of circumstances increases the likelihood of living with their remaining undocumented parent (most often mothers) with absentee spouses by 20 percent. These findings, according to the authors, are important to consider as the nation responds to the intensified immigration enforcement under the Trump administration. (Diversity Dynamics)

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Report File: 

Amuedo-Dorantes, C., & Arenas-Arroyo, E. (2017). The Changing Family Structure of American Children with Unauthorized Parents (Report No. 11145) (p. 46). Bonn, Germany: IZA Institute of Labor Economics. Retrieved from

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