Effects of Immigration Policy on Inequality Among Children in the United States

Awarded Scholars:
Julia Gelatt, Urban Institute
Heather Koball, Urban Institute
Project Date:
Jul 2015
Award Amount:
Project Programs:

Increasing numbers of children are affected not only by living on the low end of the growing income and wealth divide, but also by a second disadvantage—their parents’ immigration status. An estimated 5.3 million children live with an unauthorized immigrant parent who lacks permission to live or work in the United States. Having unauthorized parents can have significant negative effects on children’s well-being, from lower cognitive development to greater anxiety and depression and fewer years of educational attainment.

The cost to children of having undocumented parents motivated President Obama’s executive action to offer temporary relief from deportation, and work authorization, to an estimated four million parents of U.S. citizen children (DAPA). But the effect of having undocumented parents may vary widely, as many state governments have sought to legislate immigration within their jurisdictions.

Sociologists Julia Gelatt and Heather Koball will test the effects of state immigration policies on the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage in immigrant families. They will examine the relationship between state policies toward immigrants and immigrant parents’ ability to provide for their children’s basic well-being. They will investigate how material hardship varies by family legal status, how state immigration enforcement efforts affect material hardship, and how state immigration efforts affect families’ material hardship. They will build a comprehensive database of state-level policies toward immigrants and merge these data onto data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).


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