At least 71 percent of Latino children live in dire poverty. In fact, they live below twice the federal poverty threshold. Within the race-ethnic context, 55 percent of Latino children with U.S.-born parents live in poverty.
Meanwhile, Latino children with immigrant parents fared worse than their peers of U.S.-born parents on public benefits usage like health insurance coverage. Almost 20 percent of Latino children with immigrant parents with immigrant parents do not have health insurance coverage. Across all ethnicity groups, eighty-four percent of children of immigrants are U.S. citizens. Their legal status thus makes them eligible for individual insurance coverage. Nevertheless, one explanation for the low enrollment is that parents generalize that their own immigration status renders their children ineligible.
Even though a majority of children are eligible for health insurance coverage, there are about one million undocumented children who do not qualify for health insurance in at least 46 states. Insurance coverage would help to lower the public burden of emergency rooms and health insurance in general. But coverage would also provide greater protection against health issues like diabetes and obesity. In fact, obesity has skyrocketed within the Latino community, a subject that the First Lady addressed in her keynote speech at a conference for Latino leaders on Tuesday.
Such barriers are hard to overcome when Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) vote against expanding Medicaid to low-income residents, who are often Latino and black.
PreKindergarten enrollment is another public benefit in which few children take advantage. Only 37 percent of Latino children with immigrant parents and 42 percent of Latino children with U.S.-born parents are enrolled in early education programs. The finding is concerning because early education access helps to close the gap in academic readiness for children of immigrant parents and other children. Notably this has a lifetime effect as all Latino students are less likely to attain bachelor’s degrees, which is an educational milestone that opens up more career and income opportunities.
The tide is changing in one anti-immigrant state to open up education access. Alabama State Superintendent Tommy Bice sent a county-wide memo on Monday to school officials endorsing equal educational access to all children. Specifically, he reminded officials that children do not need to provide Social Security numbers to enroll in classes. Moreso, their parents do not need to have an Alabama driver’s license or state-issued ID.
While Latino children are at a high risk across a variety of socio-economic factors, black children of immigrant parents and black children of U.S.-born parents face great challenges as well. At least 65 percent of black children with U.S.-born parents live below twice the poverty rate. Within race-ethnic groups, 55 percent of black children with immigrant parents are just as likely as Latino children with U.S.-born parents to live in poverty. Another essential resource that 15 percent of black children with immigrant parents lack is health insurance coverage.
The study’s findings thus is a re-affirmation that immigration status affects Latino families across educational attainment, health, and income. Notably, black children with U.S.-born parents and Latino children with immigrant parents fare the worst on indicators of poverty, were least likely to be covered by health insurance, and fared the worst on reading and math proficiency levels.