These briefs are short and informative analyses of our research
relating to poverty policies. Policy Briefs deliver our
cutting-edge research directly to policy makers, researchers, and
stakeholders in an accessible format.
The USA maintains the world’s largest immigration detention system. In two recent studies, we examined the health of detained immigrants in California during detention and following release.
In the first study, we examined confinement conditions (including sleep deprivation, social isolation from family via barriers to visitation, witnessing or experiencing abuse or harassment, and barriers to needed physical and mental health care) and found that each condition increased the likelihood of deleterious physical and/or mental health conditions among study participants.
Between 2000 and 2015, as the U.S. deported unprecedented numbers of Mexican immigrants, the population of U.S.-born children living in Mexico doubled in size. In a recent study, using data collected in 2014 and 2018 by the Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID), we estimated the number of de facto deported children. De facto deported children are U.S.-born children who emigrated to Mexico from the U.S. to accompany a deported parent.
Historically, Hispanic families have used means-tested assistance less than high-poverty peers, with anti-immigrant politics and policies potentially acting as a barrier. In a recent study, we documented the participation of Hispanic children in three anti-poverty programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). We compared across age and parental citizenship, and also explored the correlation of participation with state immigrant-based restrictions.
The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program granted work authorization and protection from deportation to more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as minors. In a recent study, we investigated the association between this expansion of legal rights and birth outcomes among 72,613 singleton births to high school-educated Mexican-immigrant women in the United States from June 2010 to May 2014 using birth records data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Though immigration policymaking has traditionally occurred at the federal level, it is increasingly prevalent at sub-national levels, too. In a recent study, we examined the adoption of these policies at the county level in the United States. Specifically, we considered the implementation of migrant labor market regularizations (LRs) between 2004 and 2014. LRs affect aspects of migrant workers’ status in labor markets and include laws and ordinances related to anti-solicitation, language access, local enforcement of federal immigration law, and employment verification.
Among disadvantaged groups, rates of postsecondary enrollment are disproportionately low, with undocumented immigrants facing particularly high barriers to college. In a recent study, we investigated the effects of a decrease in Colorado college tuition on college application and enrollment behavior. Specifically, we used student-level data to analyze a law that granted in-state tuition to certain undocumented students residing in Colorado. We found an increase in the credit hours and persistence of newly enrolled and likely undocumented students in the period after the law was introduced.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, implemented in 2012, granted a subset of undocumented youth temporary relief from deportation, as well as work authorization and other benefits. In a recent study, we analyzed both whether and how DACA impacted education and employment among undocumented immigrants in California. We found mixed effects. DACA enabled college for some, but discouraged it for others. DACA recipients perceived substantial occupational mobility, but for many, this was not reflected in movement out of the secondary labor market.
Conditions of confinement in immigrant detention facilities make them a ticking time bomb for COVID-19 infections. The health risks are dire and urgent, but federal and state governments can still take legal action to prevent infections, flatten the curve, and save lives.
Parents struggling with food insecurity can experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. These pressures may negatively affect their parenting, which may in turn affect the behavior of their children. In this study, we investigated the parenting aggravation levels of parents who experienced food insecurity in the aftermath of the Great Recession. We also explored the extent to which such aggravation may be responsible for the link between food insecurity and children’s behaviors.
The Food Stamp Program (FSP, known since 2008 as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) is one of the largest safety-net programs in the United States. It is especially important for families with children. However, the FSP eligibility of documented immigrants has shifted on multiple occasions in recent decades. When I studied the health outcomes of children in documented immigrant families affected by such shifts between 1996 and 2003, I found that just one extra year of parental eligibility before age 5 improves health outcomes at ages 6-16.
Young, undocumented Latino immigrants face many challenges in the United States. Undocumented Latino youth are less likely to graduate from high school and attend college than native-born youth and are more likely to live in poverty and report clinical levels of depression. Our research examines the impact of changes in legal status related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Latino immigrant young adults in California, with a focus on distress and psychological wellbeing.
Direct health care support and personal care jobs have the
largest projected growth in the next decade. Immigrants make up
growing percentages of workers in these fields, and having a
better understanding of their range of experiences in these
occupations will help attract and retain them. My new research
finds that African immigrant direct health care workers often
experience prejudice based on both their race and African
backgrounds. They also see their jobs as lacking opportunities
for advancement, and often struggle to meet basic needs with
In the U.S., low-income immigrants are disproportionately
excluded from social services. Even those who have gained formal
access must often overcome informal institutional barriers. In a
new study, I interviewed low-income Mexican immigrant mothers
with limited English skills to understand these informal barriers
in education and healthcare settings as they advocated on behalf
of their children. The study suggests that mothers are most
effective in a less bureaucratized setting and when staff
recognize how deeply they care for and understand their children.
California health advocates are increasingly aware of the hazards
of Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis), a disease caused by a
fungus spore living in semi-arid regions of the west and
southwest U.S. California has the most associated deaths despite
only representing about 31 percent of all U.S. cases. Policy
makers can reduce its impact on low-income communities and save
millions of dollars in treatment each year by addressing the
circumstances of infection, as well as the difficulties
low-income populations face in accessing care.
Intensified violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle
countries of Central America have spurred migration among
youth who seek to either reunite with family or to support
families who remain abroad. Policies to protect these youth would
promote their holistic integration into U.S. society, enforce
safety and well-being along the U.S. southern border and help
strengthen the youths’ countries of origin socially, economically
Despite significant efforts to deter unauthorized immigration,
repeat migration to the United States following deportation is
common. In a new study, my co-authors and I examined how having
family in the U.S. affects the intent to return among migrants
deported to El Salvador. We found that being separated from their
families in the U.S. is the most important factor in the intent
to return, even despite the severe penalties if caught.
With obesity affecting over a third of the U.S. population,
public health advocates—including first lady Michelle
Obama—have called to “drink up” on water instead of sugary
beverages. In new work, supported by the Center for Poverty
Research, we find that low-quality drinking water is a potential
barrier to reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
in high-poverty rural immigrant communities.
With unauthorized youth at the forefront of immigration reform
discourse and policy proposals, understanding the diversity of
their profiles and experiences is necessary to create holistic
Community-based organizations (CBOs) serve low-income immigrants
who face significant barriers to public aid. An increasing
proportion of these populations includes families with children
who live in poverty.
In recent years, ethnic concordance—matching the ethnicity of
healthcare workers to that of their patients—has been promoted as
an important measure for achieving “patient-centered care” for
minority patients in the U.S.
For an extended period now, U.S. farms have enjoyed an abundance
of workers from Mexico who work for stable or decreasing real
wages. However, since 2008 the overall number of these farm
workers, both these working in the U.S. and those who remain in
Mexico, has shrunk substantially.
One in five children in the United States is the child of
immigrants. These new Americans, most of whom are U.S. citizens,
are more than twice as likely as children of natives to have no
health insurance. Prior research has shown that differences in
income or employment between native and immigrant parents do not
account for the disparity in coverage.
Those who come to the United States looking for work compete with
some groups of native-born workers but complement others. Since
wages and the local poverty rate play a part in how many arrive,
it is a challenge to quantify the effect they in turn have on
both, and whether they push native workers below the poverty