Children of immigrants, who make up 28 percent of all children in Maryland and nearly a quarter of those in Virginia and the District, are more likely to live in chronic poverty and less likely to perform at grade level in school, according to a report being released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The report highlights disparities in opportunities for children of immigrants. It also highlights the harder-to-measure impacts of persistent stress on children affected by government policies that result in the profiling, deportation and detention of immigrants.
“When you hear conversations about immigration and immigration policies, it’s rare that you hear about the impacts on kids being discussed,” said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy for the Casey Foundation. “These kids are going to be our future leaders, our future workforce. We need them to be successful if we are going to be successful as a country.”
Nationally, there are 18 million children who live with parents who emigrated from another country. Of those, 88 percent are U.S. citizens. About 5 million children have a parent who is undocumented.
While children of immigrants make up less than a quarter of the nation’s population of children, they account for 30 percent of those from low-income families, the report says.
They are also more likely to struggle in school. Only 8 percent of fourth-graders in immigrant families scored at or above proficient in reading in 2015 compared to 38 percent of children from non-immigrant families. And just 5 percent of eighth-grade children from immigrant families scored at or above proficient in math in 2015 compared to 34 percent of children from nonimmigrant families. The report used English-language learner status as a proxy for determining which students have immigrant parents.
The Washington area mirrors national trends for children of immigrants, with similar disparities in academic performance.
Nonso Umunna, research director at Advocates for Children and Youth, based in Maryland, said language and cultural barriers in public schools could be contributing to the disparities in academic performance.
He also noted the relatively low number of children who are attending preschool, an indicator of future academic success.
In Maryland, 63 percent children of U.S.-born parents attend early education programs. For immigrant children the rate is slightly lower at 60 percent. (For Hispanic children, from both immigrant and U.S.-born parents, the rate drops to 49 percent.)
In Virginia, 58 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds from immigrant families are enrolled in preschool, compared to 61 percent of those whose parents are not immigrants.
And in the District, where all 3- and 4-year-old children can enroll in public preschool programs, the enrollment rate for children born to immigrants was 82 percent, compared to 87 percent of children born to non-immigrants.
Children from immigrant families fare better on some measures.
Nationally, 80 percent of children from immigrant families have two parents at home, compared to 65 percent of those from U.S.-born families. The disparity is more stark in the District — 77 of children with immigrant parents live with two parents compared to 38 of those with U.S.-born parents.
The data come from the second triennial “Race for Results” report, which measures how children from different racial backgrounds are faring in every state across the country. The report creates a composite index score for children of every race in every state, based on how they are faring on a set of 12 key indicators related to health, education and income.
The report showed progress over the six years — 2010 through 2015 — that it has tracked data. The rate of teenage pregnancy has gone down and household income has increased, but the disparities between racial groups have remained.
The report includes policy recommendations to promote the well-being of children of immigrants, including making it a priority to keep immigrant families together when making decisions about deporting or detaining parents.
It also recommends health and education-related policies to help children meet important developmental milestones, and policies, such as certification programs for foreign-trained workers, that would improve economic opportunities for their parents.