The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Parental Immigration Status and the Developmental Outcomes of Children: Evidence From Los Angeles

Friday, January 17, 2014: 8:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103B Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Yoonsook Ha, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Marci Ybarra, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Jina Chang, MS, Doctoral Student, Boston University, Boston, MA
Background: Evidence suggests that the children of immigrants lag behind their peers in developmental outcomes such as reading and math scores as early as kindergarten. Scholars are particularly concerned with the children of undocumented immigrants as recent research suggests these children have less access to services that combat poverty and enhance outcomes, including education outcomes, have higher poverty rates, and live in less advantaged neighborhoods. Yet, evidence is scarce on the developmental outcomes of the children of undocumented parents. Thus, this study will compare math and reading scores of children in Los Angeles County, California relative to their parent's immigration status (citizen, documented, undocumented).

Methods: We use wave 1 2001 survey data from the Los Angeles Families and Neighborhood Study (LA FANS). LA FANS is a survey of 3,000 randomly selected families from 65 census tracts in LA County that includes information on parents and children's immigration status, income, work, public program participation, and neighborhood characteristics. One child, and if they had siblings, one additional child, were randomly selected, and the children’s primary caregivers, mostly mothers, were interviewed. All children younger than 18 years of age (N=~2,400) were administered tests to measure developmental outcomes. The Woodcock Johnson-Revised Test of Achievement (WJ-R), a battery of tests designed to assess individual scholastic achievement, were used to measure math and reading outcomes. Children were administered the Letter-Word Identification (LWI) and Applied-Problems (AP) assessments. The LWI assesses symbolic learning (matching a picture with a word) and reading identification skills (identifying letters and words). The AP test measures analytic skills in solving practical mathematics problems, and provides an assessment of mathematics reasoning. We compare math and reading outcomes of children and investigate whether differences emerge relative to family and neighborhood characteristic. Because neighborhoods shape access to quality education, language attainment, and other resources that may impact well-being we use a neighborhoods effects approach (hierarchical linear models) to test for differences in outcomes in math and reading scores among citizen, undocumented, and documented families. We include individual level/family characteristics (age, race, parental immigration status, parental education, income, work, public program participation, test administered in English or Spanish, primary language spoken at home) and neighborhood characteristics (poverty, immigrant concentration, residential stability). In order to account for changes in stability prior to developmental outcomes tests we draw on LA FANS calendar data on income and work in the two years prior to the tests.

Results: Preliminary analysis suggests the children of undocumented parents have lower scores relative to similarly situated peers, all else equal.

Conclusion & Implications: The children of undocumented immigrants may be at a developmental disadvantage which will impact later life chances in education and employment. These results will be if interest to scholars of immigration and children's education.