Immigrant Children

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The population of first- and second-generation immigrant children in the United States grew by 51 percent between 1995 and 2014, to 18.7 million, or one-quarter of all U.S. children.

Importance

Children and youth living in immigrant families are the fastest growing group of American children.[1] As of 2014, Mexico was the country of origin for the largest share of immigrant children living in the U.S.; 40 percent of children in immigrant families had at least one parent who was Mexican-born. (Appendix 1)

Immigrant children face a number of risks to healthy development, although only some of these are unique to this population. They are more likely than non-immigrant children to live in families with incomes below the poverty threshold, to have parents with very low educational attainment, and to have three or more siblings.[2] Immigrant children are also far less likely to be covered by health insurance. Non-immigrant children are three times more likely than first-generation immigrant children to have health insurance, and twice as likely as immigrant children who are second-generation.[3] Children in immigrant families, though more likely to face economic hardship, are less likely than native children to use public benefits such as SNAP (formerly, food stamps) or Medicaid. This may be in part due to the fact that many immigrant children have undocumented parents, who may be unaware of their child’s eligibility, or be afraid to interact with government agencies.[4]

Immigrant children are more likely than non-immigrant children to have health that is “poor” or only “fair.”[5] Researchers have identified an “immigrant paradox,” in that the health status of young immigrant children is often better than expected, given their level of socio-economic disadvantage. However, research has also shown that, with successive generations of residence in the U.S., rates of adverse health conditions like asthma, allergies, developmental delays, and learning disabilities increase.[6]

In contrast, youth in immigrant families do not differ significantly from those in native-born families in terms of their self-esteem, psychological well-being, and psychological distress, although findings differ by country of origin and racial-ethnic status.[7],[8] Similarly, adolescents in immigrant families have somewhat higher math test scores than adolescents in non-immigrant families, although reading test scores are somewhat lower.[9] Again, these results differ by country of origin..

Trends

110_fig1Between 1994 and 2014, the percentage of children who are immigrant children, either first- or second- generation, increased by 45 percent, from 18 to 25 percent. (Figure 1) In 1994, 12.2 million children were immigrants: 2.7 million were first-generation, and 9.5 million were second-generation. By 2014, the population had grown to 18.7 million, including 2.8 million first-generation and 15.9 million second-generation immigrants. (Appendix 1 and Appendix 2)

Although the proportion of U.S. children who are immigrants has grown, all of the increase has been in the proportion of second-generation immigrants, which increased from 14 to 22 percent between 1994 and 2014. First-generation immigrant children, in contrast, have remained at between three and five percent of all children, although the proportion peaked at 4.7 percent in 2005 and has been decreasing slightly since. (Figure 1)

Note: Immigrant children are defined here as those who have at least one foreign-born parent. First-generation immigrant children are those who were born outside the United States, and second-generation immigrants are those who were born within the United States or its territories.

Differences by Generation

In 1994, there were three-and-a-half times as many second-generation immigrant children as first-generation immigrant children. By 2014, this disparity had grown: second-generation children outnumbered first-generation children by nearly six to one. (Appendix 2)

In 1994, 41 percent of second-generation immigrant children had at least one parent who was born in the United States. By 2010, the proportion was only 31 percent, though that has since increased, and was 33 percent in 2014. (Appendix 2) Overall, 28 percent of immigrant children had at least one parent born in the United States in 2014. (Appendix 1)

Differences by Country of Origin

The proportion of first-generation immigrant children who were born in Mexico increased from 32 percent in 1996 to 38 percent in 2002, then remained steady until 2006. Between 2006 and 2014, the proportion born in Mexico decreased from 37 to 26 percent. In 2014, the three next most common birthplaces for first-generation children were China (seven percent), India (five percent), and the Philippines (three percent). (Appendix 2)

In 1996, 38 percent of second-generation immigrant children had at least one parent who was born in Mexico. By 2010, the proportion was 46 percent, though it has since decreased, and was at 42 percent in 2014. The three next most common countries of origin for the parents of immigrant children were El Salvador, India, and the Philippines. (Appendix 2)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[10]

110_fig2More than half (55 percent) of all first- and second-generation immigrant children were of Hispanic origin in 2014, compared with 14 percent of non-immigrant children. Similarly, Asian children made up 17 percent of all first- and second-generation immigrant children in 2014, but were one percent of non-immigrant children. In the same year, 16 percent of all immigrant children were white, and nine percent were black, compared with 65 and 15 percent, respectively, among non-immigrant children. (Figure 2)

In 2014, first-generation immigrant children were more likely than second-generation children to be Asian, white, or black: 25, 22, and 11 percent, respectively, among first-generation immigrant children, compared with 15, 15, and eight percent of second-generation children. Second-generation children were more likely than first-generation children to be Hispanic (58 and 40 percent, respectively). (Appendix 2)

Differences by Poverty Status

110_fig3First-generation immigrant children are more likely to live in poverty than are either second-generation children or non-immigrant children. In 2014, nearly one-third (28 percent) of first-generation immigrant children lived in poverty, compared with 25 percent of second-generation children, and 19 percent of non-immigrant children. First- and second-generation immigrant children were equally likely to live in near-poverty in 2014. (Figure 3)

Similar to non-immigrant children, the proportion of immigrant children who lived in poverty decreased between 1995 and 2000, from 32 to 23 percent. Between 2000 and 2007 the proportion remained steady for both groups of children. Between 2007 and 2011, the proportion of immigrant children who were in poverty increased by 43 percent, from 22 to 31 percent. Among non-immigrant children, the proportion increased by 19 percent, from 17 to 20 percent. Since then, the proportion in poverty has decreased for both groups, but decreases have been greater among children in immigrant families. (Appendix 1)

Differences by Family Structure

110_fig4Immigrant children are more likely to live in two-parent families, and less likely to live in single-parent families, than are non-immigrant children. Seventy-one percent of first-generation and 72 percent of second-generation immigrant children lived in two-parent families in 2014, compared with 61 percent of non-immigrant children. Seventeen percent of first-generation and 23 percent of second-generation children lived with a single parent, compared with 29 percent of non-immigrant children. Second-generation immigrant children are less likely than first-generation or non-immigrant children to live with a step-parent. (Figure 4)

State and Local Estimates

The KIDS COUNT Data Center has state-level data on immigrant children, and their parents’ region of origin.

The Urban Institute has information on immigrant children, by state and metropolitan area, from the American Community Survey.

International Estimates

None available.

Related Indicators

Definition

Immigrant children are all children who have at least one foreign-born parent. First-generation immigrants are those who were born outside the United States, and second-generation immigrants are those who were born in the Unites States or its territories. Non-immigrant children are all children, regardless of where they were born, who have two U.S.-born parents. This classification includes all parents, regardless of whether they live with their child.

Data Source

Data for 1994-2014: Child Trends analysis of data from the Current Population Survey, March Supplement.

Raw Data Source

U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March Supplement.

http://www.census.gov/cps/

 

Appendix 1 - Of Children Younger than 18, Number and Percentage who are Immigrants1, and Percentage of Immigrants and Non-Immigrants with Selected Characteristics: Selected Years, 1994-2014

1994 1995 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Number of immigrant children (millions) 12.2 12.4 14.1 14.3 15.0 16.0 16.1 16.8 17.0 17.3 17.7 17.5 17.3 18.0 18.4 18.7 18.4 18.7
Number of non-Immigrant children (millions) 57.6 58.1 57.9 58.0 57.6 56.7 57.3 56.8 56.8 56.7 56.4 56.9 57.2 57.0 56.5 55.4 55.6 55.1
Percent of all U.S. children who are immigrants 17.5 17.5 19.5 19.8 20.7 22.0 21.9 22.8 23.1 23.3 23.9 23.6 23.3 24.0 24.6 25.2 24.9 25.4
Percent of immigrant children
Race/Hispanic origin2
Non-Hispanic white 26.9 27.0 23.8 22.9 23.1 21.9 20.3 21.1 20.1 18.9 19.2 18.9 17.2 16.0 17.6 16.2 15.5 16.1
Non-Hispanic black 7.1 6.6 6.9 6.0 6.7 7.5 8.0 7.3 7.2 7.7 8.1 7.5 7.5 8.4 7.8 7.4 7.7 8.5
Non-Hispanic Asian 14.5 12.3 18.1 17.9 17.9 16.7 15.9 15.4 15.8 15.5 15.5 15.5 15.9 16.4 16.3 17.1 16.6 16.9
Hispanic 50.2 52.4 50.8 52.8 52.0 53.5 53.1 53.5 54.4 55.5 55.0 55.6 57.0 56.7 56.0 55.9 56.9 55.1
Family income
Below poverty 31.2 32.2 26.8 23.3 22.7 22.8 23.2 23.7 23.8 23.3 21.7 23.6 25.9 28.1 30.9 28.4 28.4 25.5
100-199% of poverty 27.3 25.9 28.2 28.9 27.5 28.8 28.1 28.1 28.6 27.9 29.4 28.2 27.5 26.9 26.0 27.7 26.9 28.6
200%+ of poverty 41.5 41.9 45.0 47.8 49.7 48.4 48.7 48.2 47.6 48.8 48.9 48.2 46.6 44.9 43.1 43.9 44.7 45.9
Family structure
Two biological or adoptive parents - - - - - - - - - - 74.1 73.2 72.2 71.2 72.7 71.6 71.0 71.8
At least one step-parent - - - - - - - - - - 3.9 3.7 4.2 3.8 3.5 3.5 3.4 3.7
Single parent - - - - - - - - - - 19.2 20.2 20.8 22.0 21.1 22.7 23.1 22.0
Other family structure - - - - - - - - - - 2.8 2.9 2.7 3.0 2.7 2.2 2.5 2.5
Parental origin (at least one parent)
United States 33.9 33.7 32.8 30.5 28.9 28.9 27.9 27.9 27.3 27.1 28.0 27.9 27.2 27.0 28.2 29.0 27.8 28.4
Mexico 37.6 40.2 38.0 39.4 38.5 40.6 39.4 39.4 40.2 41.1 40.8 42.4 43.7 43.4 42.7 41.3 41.0 40.0
El Salvador 4.8 4.1 4.9 3.9 3.7 3.6 3.6 3.5 4.0 4.3 3.9 3.5 3.9 3.6 3.4 4.2 4.3 4.0
India 1.8 1.4 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.3 2.8 2.7 3.2 2.8 3.4 3.3 3.7 3.9 3.8 3.8 4.1 4.2
Philippines 4.3 3.7 5.1 4.6 4.0 3.8 3.7 3.8 3.7 4.1 3.7 3.9 3.7 3.3 3.3 3.7 2.8 3.5
1994 1995 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Percent of non-immigrant children
Race/Hispanic origin2
Non-Hispanic white 74.8 74.9 73.0 72.8 72.9 72.2 71.0 70.2 70.1 69.8 69.2 68.3 67.4 67.2 66.3 65.1 64.9 64.5
Non-Hispanic black 17.7 17.9 17.6 17.7 17.6 17.7 16.9 17.3 17.1 16.8 16.8 16.9 16.5 16.0 16.0 15.9 15.7 15.4
Non-Hispanic Asian 0.5 0.3 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.9 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.0
Hispanic 5.9 5.9 7.2 7.1 7.4 7.7 8.5 8.6 8.9 9.2 9.7 10.5 11.5 12.0 12.8 13.1 13.1 13.8
Family income
Below poverty 21.5 20.3 17.9 16.1 15.2 15.4 15.8 16.7 16.8 16.9 16.6 16.9 17.5 19.0 19.7 20.2 20.2 18.6
100-199% of poverty 21.0 21.1 19.3 19.9 19.5 19.7 19.5 19.3 19.1 19.1 19.0 18.9 19.6 19.6 20.0 20.5 20.1 20.5
200%+ of poverty 57.4 58.6 62.8 63.9 65.3 64.9 64.7 64.0 64.1 64.0 64.4 64.2 62.8 61.3 60.3 59.3 59.6 60.9
Family Structure
Two biological or adoptive parents - - - - - - - - - - 61.5 61.1 61.1 60.8 60.2 59.2 60.4 61.0
At least one step-parent - - - - - - - - - - 6.7 6.5 6.5 6.6 6.2 6.4 6.0 6.2
Single parent - - - - - - - - - - 28.0 28.3 27.9 28.1 29.3 30.3 29.4 28.6
Other family structure - - - - - - - - - - 3.8 4.2 4.5 4.5 4.3 4.1 4.1 4.2
“-“ Data not available.

1Immigrant children are those with at least one parent born outside the United States. Non-immigrant children are children with two parents born in the United States or its territories.

2Estimates for 2003 and later include only those who are identified with a single race. Hispanics may be of any race.

Source: Child Trends analysis of the Current Population Survey, March Supplement.

 

Appendix 2 - Of Children Younger than 18, Number and Percentage who are First- or Second-Generation Immigrants, and Percentage Of First- and Second-Generation Immigrants with Selected Characteristics: Selected Years, 1994-2014

1994 1995 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Number of first-generation immigrant children (millions) 2.7 2.7 2.6 3.0 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.5 3.2 3.3 3.1 2.8 3.0 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.8
Percent of all U.S. children 3.9 3.8 3.6 4.2 4.4 4.5 4.3 4.5 4.7 4.4 4.5 4.2 3.8 4.0 3.7 3.8 3.5 3.8
Percent of first-generation immigrant children
Race/Hispanic origin2
Non-Hispanic white 20.1 21.3 19.0 19.5 21.2 18.2 16.7 20.4 20.0 18.5 18.5 18.3 17.1 17.2 19.0 17.3 20.0 22.2
Non-Hispanic black 6.6 6.5 7.1 6.6 7.0 7.8 7.5 7.3 7.3 8.6 8.9 8.5 7.6 10.1 10.5 10.3 9.1 11.0
Non-Hispanic Asian 20.0 19.2 23.7 22.3 21.1 20.8 20.1 18.9 19.8 19.5 20.8 22.6 23.7 25.7 22.2 27.1 27.6 25.0
Hispanic 52.3 51.8 49.8 51.6 50.6 53.0 54.5 52.1 51.8 51.9 50.7 49.9 50.3 45.4 46.9 43.7 41.2 40.0
Family income
Below poverty 39.4 42.9 31.0 28.6 27.7 26.5 28.7 28.5 29.9 29.6 24.7 28.5 31.0 30.3 33.9 31.0 30.0 28.0
100-199% of poverty 29.9 28.0 31.5 29.5 26.3 31.6 30.5 30.9 27.9 28.2 29.8 25.7 26.0 27.0 25.4 26.7 25.0 27.6
200%+ of poverty 30.7 29.0 37.5 42.0 46.0 41.9 40.8 40.6 42.1 42.2 45.5 45.8 43.0 42.7 40.7 42.3 45.0 44.4
Family structure
Two biological or adoptive parents - - - - - - - - - - 71.2 69.3 67.9 69.8 70.7 70.2 71.7 71.4
At least one step-parent - - - - - - - - - - 5.6 5.5 6.8 5.8 4.8 5.9 5.6 6.9
Single parent - - - - - - - - - - 17.5 19.6 20.1 20.1 19.6 19.4 17.8 17.3
Other family structure - - - - - - - - - - 5.7 5.6 5.2 4.3 5.0 4.6 5.0 4.3
Country of origin (birthplace)
Mexico 36.0 35.2 33.2 34.7 34.3 37.5 36.7 36.7 36.8 36.8 34.4 35.0 35.9 31.6 32.1 27.6 25.7 26.3
China 1.1 1.1 2.5 2.0 2.5 2.6 3.2 3.4 3.5 3.4 3.2 3.3 4.1 3.7 4.0 5.1 5.6 7.0
India 1.8 1.2 2.0 2.1 2.7 2.4 2.3 3.0 3.6 3.4 4.1 3.6 5.2 4.8 4.6 4.7 6.2 5.0
Philippines 3.9 3.3 5.3 3.0 3.2 2.5 3.1 3.7 3.6 3.0 3.8 4.5 4.2 4.2 3.3 4.6 2.7 3.1
Elsewhere 57.3 59.3 57.0 58.2 57.3 55.0 54.7 53.3 52.4 53.4 54.4 53.6 50.5 55.8 56.0 57.9 59.8 68.6
1994 1995 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Number of second- generation immigrant children (millions) 9.5 9.7 11.5 11.3 11.8 12.7 12.9 13.5 13.6 14.0 14.4 14.4 14.5 15.1 15.7 15.8 15.8 15.9
Percent of all U.S. children 13.6 13.7 15.9 15.6 16.3 17.5 17.6 18.3 18.4 19.0 19.4 19.3 19.5 20.1 20.9 21.4 21.4 21.5
Percent of second-generation immigrant children
Race/Hispanic origin
Non-Hispanic white 28.9 28.6 24.9 23.8 23.7 22.8 21.2 21.3 20.1 19.0 19.4 19.0 17.3 15.7 17.3 16.0 14.8 15.0
Non-Hispanic black 7.2 6.6 6.8 5.9 6.6 7.4 8.1 7.3 7.2 7.5 7.9 7.3 7.4 8.1 7.3 6.9 7.5 8.0
Non-Hispanic Asian 12.9 10.4 16.9 16.8 17.1 15.7 14.9 14.6 14.8 14.6 14.2 14.0 14.4 14.6 15.3 15.3 14.8 15.4
Hispanic 49.6 52.6 51.0 53.1 52.4 53.6 52.7 53.9 55.0 56.3 55.9 56.8 58.3 59.0 57.6 58.1 59.5 57.8
Family Income
Below poverty 28.8 29.2 25.9 21.9 21.4 21.8 21.9 22.5 22.3 21.8 21.0 22.5 25.0 27.7 30.4 27.9 28.1 25.1
100-199% of poverty 26.5 25.3 27.4 28.7 27.8 28.1 27.5 27.5 28.7 27.8 29.3 28.7 27.8 26.9 26.1 27.9 27.2 28.8
200%+ of poverty 44.6 45.5 46.7 49.4 50.8 50.1 50.6 50.1 49.0 50.3 49.7 48.8 47.3 45.4 43.5 44.2 44.7 46.1
Family Structure
Two biological or adoptive parents - - - - - - - - - - 74.7 74.0 73.0 71.5 73.0 71.8 70.9 71.9
At least one step-parent - - - - - - - - - - 3.5 3.3 3.7 3.4 3.3 3.1 3.0 3.1
Single parent - - - - - - - - - - 19.6 20.4 21.0 22.4 21.3 23.3 24.0 22.8
Other family structure - - - - - - - - - - 2.1 2.3 2.2 2.7 2.3 1.8 2.2 2.2
Parental origin (at least one parent)
United States 41.2 40.9 38.2 36.9 34.9 34.7 33.3 33.3 32.8 32.0 32.9 32.7 31.4 31.0 31.8 32.8 32.4 33.0
Mexico 38.0 41.4 38.9 40.6 39.6 41.3 40.0 40.0 41.0 42.2 42.2 44.0 45.2 45.7 44.5 43.8 43.5 42.2
El Salvador 4.6 4.1 5.5 4.5 4.3 4.0 4.1 3.9 4.3 4.7 4.3 3.8 4.3 3.8 3.7 4.6 4.8 4.2
India 1.7 1.3 2.1 2.2 2.1 2.2 2.9 2.6 2.9 2.6 3.2 3.1 3.4 3.6 3.5 3.6 3.7 4.0
Philippines 4.2 3.8 4.9 4.7 4.2 4.0 3.7 3.9 3.6 4.3 3.6 3.7 3.5 3.0 3.2 3.4 2.7 3.5
“-“ Data not available

1Immigrant children are those with at least one parent born outside the United States. First generation immigrant children were born outside the United States and second generation immigrant children were born inside the United States or its territories.

2Estimates for 2003 and later include only those who are identified with a single race. Hispanics may be of any race.

Source: Child Trends analysis of the Current Population Survey, March Supplement.

 

Endnotes


[1]Hernandez, D. J., Denton, N. A., Macartney, S. E. (2008). Children in immigrant families: looking to America’s future. Social Policy Report, 22(3).

[2]Ibid.

[3]Brown, R., Wyn, R., Yu, H., Valenzuela, A., & Dong, L. (1999).  Access to health insurance and health care for children in immigrant families, pp. 126-186 in Children of Immigrants:  Health Adjustment and Public Assistance.  National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C.:  The National Academies Press. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309065453/html/

[4]Capps, R., Fix, M., Ost, J., Reardon-Anderson, J., & Passel, J. S. (2004). The health and well-being of young children of immigrants.  The Urban Institute. Available at: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/311182_immigrant_families_5.pdf

[5]Reardon-Anderson, J., Capps, R., & Fix, M. E. (2002). The health and well-being of children in immigrant families. The Urban Institute: Washington, DC. Available at: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310584_B52.pdf

[6]Hamilton, E. R., Cardoso, J. B., Hummer, R. A., & Padilla, Y. C. (2011). Assimilation and emerging health disparities among new generations of U.S. children. Demographic Research, 25, 783-818.

[7]Kao, G. (1999). Psychological well-being and educational achievement among immigrant youth, pp. 410-477 in Children of Immigrants: Health Adjustment and Public Assistance. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309065453/html/

[8]Harris, K. M. (1999). The health status and risk behaviors of adolescents in immigrant families, pp 286-347 in Children of Immigrants: Health Adjustment and Public Assistance. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309065453/html/

[9]Kao, G. (1999). Op. cit.

[10]Hispanics may be any race. White, black, and Asian children in this report do not include Hispanics.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends. (2014). Immigrant children. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=immigrant-children

 

Last updated: October 2014

 

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