STUDY: Undocumented Kids Pushed Into "Perpetual Outsider-Hood"

Fear. Lower school performance and economic expectations. Blocked social development. A lack of a sense of belonging. These are some of the effects on children who have an undocumented immigrant parent or lack legal status themselves, according to a study published recently in the Harvard Educational Review.

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That’s pushing an entire generation of undocumented kids into “perpetual outsider-hood,” according to the study.

There are about 1 million kids are brought illegally into the country and another 4.5 million are born in the U.S. born to at least one parent who is undocumented. That can lead to big problems later on, according to the study, conducted by four education researchers from New York University and Harvard.

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That’s because their home lives are dominated by “fear and vigilance,” which can keep parents from applying for public preschool, food stamps and other childcare public programs. Parents who often work long hours at one or two jobs have less time to help with homework and be involved in school, which can “contribute substantially to the lower cognitive skills of children in their families,” according to the study.

As undocumented kids grow up, they face hurdles including difficulties or inability to apply for financial aid for college, jobs or a driver’s license and they are likely to discover that doing well in school serves them little: Only 31 of 150 immigrants who participated in the study had earned college or advanced degrees, and none of those were working in their field of study. Instead, many were dropping out of school and working low-wage jobs like their parents.