How Parents’ Immigration Status Can Affect A Kid’s Grades

(Credit: Jim Winstead)

Children of undocumented immigrant parents are less likely to graduate from high school than U.S.-born children, according to a joint study released by UC Irvine and Penn State. The study found that Mexican young adults with undocumented mothers averaged one-and-a-quarter less years of schooling than their counterparts with authorized immigrant mothers. The authors theorized that the schooling gap could be mitigated by the passage of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate is set to be debated on in June.

When faced with poverty and “ethnoracial discriminiation,” such kids feel alienated and are unable to launch themselves on an upward trajectory. The second generation children do not assimilate well to the host society because of the constant fear of having their parents’ immigration status found out. Lacking ties to the host country because of fear of deportation, second-generation children are thus unable to acculturate as well as their peers because of their parents’ legal status.

The future earnings of these second generation children also diminishes with the schooling gap because without a high school diploma, they would “earn about half a million dollars less over their lifetimes.”

The study shows that the effects of an educational disadvantage are preventable: legalization would help to raise the overall education level of these second-generation Americans. The effects of educational achievement positively changed when undocumented mothers became legalized. The co-author noted, “Legislation providing the possibility of entry into full societal membership helps not only the immigrants themselves but also their children and their children’s children.”