Child Well-Being and the Intergenerational Effects of Undocumented Immigrant Status
S. M. Kanaiaupuni
Immigrant status carries considerable challenges to survival and mobility in U.S. society. As an emerging dimension of social stratification, legal status further complicates the situation, influencing not only immigrants but also their children. Using data collected in Houston and San Diego, this study examines the intergenerational health consequences of undocumented status for child well-being. The main findings support my argument that children with undocumented immigrant parents suffer higher risks of poverty and poor health than children in legal households, and that children in mixed-status households are equally disadvantaged despite having a legal adult at home. In contrast, children in legal households are wealthier and have more food, better living quarters, better health insurance status, and better health status. The drawbacks of being raised in families with one or more unauthorized residents offer further evidence of a growing policy dilemma about access to health care and the general well-being of this vulnerable population of children. Addressing these needs carries particular significance for the future of a growing Chicana/o population, among whom these findings document an observable health deficit. As such, this deficit, which may also exist among other Latino groups experiencing high rates of undocumented migration and uncertain legal status outcomes, contributes to existing health disparities and racial and ethnic inequality in the United States.
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