Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report: Children growing up in the shadows face 'multiple yet unrecognizable developmental consequences'

The Harvard Educational Review has published a fall special issue dedicated to immigration, youth and education, the highlight of which is a report released today called "Growing Up in the Shadows: The Developmental Implications of Unauthorized Status."

The report paints a challenging picture for the estimated 5.5 million children and adolescents in the United States who are growing up as the children of undocumented immigrants, suggesting they are "experiencing multiple and yet unrecognizable developmental consequences as a result of their family's existence in the shadow of the law," the abstract reads.

Other research has focused on education and health as it applies to these children; the Harvard study, which covers the effects of living in the shadows on children from birth through college, shows them at risk of "lower educational performance, economic stagnation, blocked mobility and ambiguous belonging," according to the New York Times.

The entire report must be purchased, but the editors of the special issue, which includes eight "youth narratives" in additional to seven scholarly articles, have posted a detailed introduction to the issue that is itself worth reading. An excerpt:

More than five million children now reside in households of mixed legal status, where one or both parents are unauthorized to live and work in the United States.

Although nearly three-fourths of children who live with undocumented parents are citizens by birth, environmental risks and institutional barriers associated with their status as dependents of unauthorized residents continue to compromise their quality of life and well-being, particularly during the crucial formative years (Passel & Cohn, 2009).

Compared to their U.S.-born counterparts, immigrant children"particularly undocumented children and those in mixed-status families"are more likely to live in poverty, experience neighborhood risks, and attend chronically low-performing schools; their parents forgo publicly funded programs and services such as health insurance/medical care, preschools, and parenting education out of fear of deportation or lack of information (Cervantes & Hernandez, 2011; Mather, 2009; Passel, 2011; Yoshikawa, 2011).

These risk factors are not only associated with lower academic outcomes and economic mobility (Heckman, 2006), but they can portend greater social and economic inequality.