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- Definition: Estimated percentage of the population born outside of the United States, by age group and legislative district (e.g., in 2014-2018, 5.9% of California children ages 5-17 were foreign-born).
- Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (Jan. 2020).
- Footnote: The foreign-born population includes naturalized U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, temporary migrants, humanitarian migrants, and unauthorized migrants. These estimates are based on a survey of the population and are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error.
- Measures of Immigrants on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, measures related to foreign-born and limited English-speaking populations include the following:
- Percentage of children living in limited English-speaking households (i.e., households in which (i) no one age 14 or older speaks English only, and (ii) no one age 14 or older who speaks a language other than English speaks English very well)
- Percentage of children living with at least one foreign-born parent, overall and by income level
- Percentage of the population that is foreign-born, by age group
Depending on the indicator, data are available as one- and five-year estimates for the nation, state, and counties and/or county groups, and as five-year estimates for cities, school districts, and legislative districts.
- Children Living in Limited English-Speaking Households
- Children Living with Foreign-Born Parents
- Children Living with Foreign-Born Parents, by Income Level
- Foreign-Born Population, by Age Group
- Bullying and Harassment at School
- Family Income and Poverty
- Student Demographics
- School Climate
- Math Proficiency
- Reading Proficiency
- Why This Topic Is Important
U.S. children of foreign-born parents represent a large and growing segment of the population (1). In 2018, this group, comprised overwhelmingly of native-born citizens, accounted for roughly a quarter of the nation's child population and nearly half of children in California (1, 2, 3). California has the highest percentage of foreign-born residents in the country, the majority of whom are naturalized citizens or have other documented status (3).
Although immigrants are more likely to be employed than their U.S.-born counterparts, children with foreign-born parents are more likely than other children to live in poverty (1, 4, 5). Children in immigrant families also are more likely to have parents with low educational attainment, to live in limited English-speaking households, to lack health insurance coverage and a usual source of health care, and to report poorer health status compared with children of native-born parents (1, 5, 6). It is therefore important for local and state government, schools, health care systems, and community organizations to address the needs of these children and families, support their strengths, and work to eliminate service barriers.For more information on this topic please see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Woods, T., & Hanson, D. (2016). Demographic trends of children of immigrants. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/research/publication/demographic-trends-children-immigrants
2. As cited on kidsdata.org, Children living with foreign-born parents. (2021). U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey.
3. Johnson, H., et al. (2021). Immigrants in California. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/immigrants-in-california
4. Costa, D., et al. (2014). Facts about immigration and the U.S. economy. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.epi.org/publication/immigration-facts
5. Woods, T., et al. (2016). Children of immigrants: 2013 state trends update. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/research/publication/children-immigrants-2013-state-trends-update
6. Calvo, R., & Hawkins, S. S. (2015). Disparities in quality of healthcare of children from immigrant families in the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 19(10), 2223-2232. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4575861
- How Children Are Faring
Nearly half (47%) of California children live with at least one foreign-born parent, compared with roughly a quarter (26%) of children nationwide, according to 2018 estimates. Among these children of foreign-born parents, statewide and nationally, one in five lives below the federal poverty threshold. Across counties with data in 2014-2018, Santa Clara had the highest percentage of children living with foreign-born parents, at 64%, while Tuolumne had the lowest, at 7%.
In 2018, 9% of California children lived in households in which no one age 14 or older spoke English very well, down from 15% in 2007. At the county level, estimates of children living in limited English-speaking households vary widely across regions with data, from less than 2% (Calaveras; Del Norte; Siskiyou) to more than 20% (Monterey) in 2014-2018.
According to 2018 estimates, 2% of California children ages 0-4, 6% of children ages 5-17, and 15% of young adults ages 18-24 were born outside the U.S. Since 2007, the percentage of foreign-born children ages 0-4 has remained relatively stable while the share of foreign-born Californians ages 5-24 has declined.
- Policy Implications
California is a leader in supportive immigrant policies, with major legislation passed in recent years aimed at supporting better outcomes for children of immigrants, reducing health disparities, and helping foreign-born Californians participate in and contribute to society (1, 2). The state also offers benefits to immigrants that would not be available under federal law, such as Medi-Cal for undocumented children (1, 3). However, enforcement of federal immigration regulations can have negative effects on families; e.g., the deportation of a parent or caregiver can cause psychological trauma, housing instability, and financial problems, which may have long-term adverse consequences for children's health and development (4, 5).
While California has made many strides, much more work is needed, especially given the lack of an effective national immigration system and the uncertain future of federal immigration policy (1, 6). Leaders must continue working toward improved systems that prioritize the well being of vulnerable children, while also preserving the limited support currently available to immigrant families (1, 6, 7). In addition, future policy directions should take into account the contributions of immigrants, including their significant role in meeting current and future workforce needs and positive impact on long-term economic growth (8, 9).
Policy options that could influence the well being of immigrant children and families include:
For more information on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit Urban Institute and California Immigrant Policy Center. Also see Policy Implications under Student Demographics on kidsdata.org.
- Promoting federal policy changes that provide immigrant families with supports to maintain and strengthen family unity, such as basic assistance and child welfare services, and efficient pathways to citizenship (5, 6, 7)
- Maintaining and effectively implementing California's pro-immigrant policies, as state cooperation with federal immigration enforcement increases economic hardship among low-income children in immigrant families, with no benefit to children of native-born parents (1, 2, 4)
- Supporting efforts to create coordinated systems serving immigrant families that facilitate consistent access to linguistically and culturally appropriate health care, along with quality education, child care, interpretation, and legal services (6, 7)
- Addressing the needs of dual-language learners in early childhood programs and English learners in public schools through evidence-based resources and practices that engage families and recognize sociocultural influences on language learning (10)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Villareal, G. (2015). The California blueprint: Two decades of pro-immigrant transformation. California Immigrant Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://prismic-io.s3.amazonaws.com/cipc-cms%2F21041711-8322-4ef0-b3e5-7f0411318abb_the-california-blueprint-2016.pdf
2. California Immigrant Policy Center. (2017). Legislative update - End of session 2017. Retrieved from: https://caimmigrant.org/updates/legislative-update-end-of-session-2017
3. California Department of Health Care Services. (n.d.). SB 75 - Full scope Medi-Cal for all children. Retrieved from: https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/eligibility/Pages/SB-75.aspx
4. Gelatt, J., et al. (2017). State immigration enforcement policies: How they impact low-income households. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/research/publication/state-immigration-enforcement-policies
5. Capps, R., et al. (2015). Implications of immigration enforcement activities for the well-being of children in immigrant families: A review of the literature. Urban Institute & Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/research/publication/implications-immigration-enforcement-activities-well-being-children-immigrant-families-review-literature
6. Linton, J. M., et al. (2017). Detention of immigrant children. Pediatrics, 139(5), e20170483. Retrieved from: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/03/09/peds.2017-0483
7. Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum. (2015). Blueprint for a better America: Ensuring our immigration system advances the health and well-being of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and all immigrants. Retrieved from: https://www.apiahf.org/resource/blueprint-for-a-better-america-ensuring-our-immigration-system-advances-the-health-and-well-being-of-asian-americans-pacific-islanders-and-all-immigrants
8. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The economic and fiscal consequences of immigration. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23550/the-economic-and-fiscal-consequences-of-immigration
9. Myers, D. (2017). The new importance of children in America. Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health & Childrens Hospital Association. Retrieved from: https://www.lpfch.org/publication/new-importance-children-america
10. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Promoting the educational success of children and youth learning English: Promising futures. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24677/promoting-the-educational-success-of-children-and-youth-learning-english
- Websites with Related Information
- American Immigration Council
- California Immigrant Policy Center
- Center for the Study of Social Policy: Immigration
- Center on Immigration and Child Welfare. New Mexico State University School of Social Work.
- Migration Policy Institute
- National Immigration Law Center
- Pew Research Center: Immigration and Migration
- RAND Corporation: Migration
- Urban Institute: Immigrants and Immigration
- Key Reports and Research
- Child Welfare and Immigration: Implications for Funders. (2018). Youth Transition Funders Group. Desai, N., & Adamson, M.
- Detention of Immigrant Children. (2022). Pediatrics. Linton, J. M., et al.
- Entangled Roots: The Role of Race in Policies that Separate Families. (2018). Center for the Study of Social Policy. Minoff, E.
- Four Strategies to Improve Community Services for Unaccompanied Children in the United States. (2022). Migration Policy Institute. Beier, J., et al.
- Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States. (2023). Migration Policy Institute. Ward, N. & Batalova, J.
- Healthy Mind, Healthy Future: Promoting the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Children in Immigrant Families in California. (2018). Children’s Partnership & California Immigrant Policy Center.
- Immigrant Families in California Faced Barriers Accessing Safety Net Programs in 2021, but Community Organizations Helped Many Enroll. (2022). Urban Institute. Gonzalez, D., et al.
- Immigrants in California. (2023). Public Policy Institute of California. Perez, C. A., et al.
- Key Facts About Asian Americans, a Diverse and Growing Population. (2021). Pew Research Center. Budiman, A., & Ruiz, N. G.
- Landscape of Opportunity. (2021). California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.
- Restoring an Inclusionary Safety Net for Children in Immigrant Families: A Review of Three Social Policies. (2021). Health Affairs. Acevedo-Garcia, D., et al.
- Serving Immigrant Families Through Two-Generation Programs: Identifying Family Needs and Responsive Program Approaches. (2016). Migration Policy Institute. Park, M., et al.
- State Immigration Enforcement Policies: How They Impact Low-Income Households. (2017). Urban Institute. Gelatt, J., et al.
- Supporting the Economic Security of Undocumented Immigrants. (2022). Asset Funders Network & California Immigrant Policy Center. Feldstein, S.
- The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration. (2017). National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
- U.S. Citizen Children of Undocumented Parents: The Link Between State Immigration Policy and the Health of Latino Children. (2017). Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. Vargas, E. D., & Ybarra, V. D.
- U.S. Hispanic Population Continued Its Geographic Spread in the 2010s. (2022). Pew Research Center. Passel, J. S., et al.
- Visualizing Trends for Children of Immigrants. (2023). Urban Institute.
- County/Regional Reports
- Community Health Improvement Plan for Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.
- Key Indicators of Health by Service Planning Area. (2017). Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.
- Pathway to Progress: Indicators of Young Child Well-Being in Los Angeles County. First 5 LA.
- Resilience in an Age of Inequality: Immigrant Contributions to California. (2017). California Immigrant Policy Center. Rodney, J.
- Santa Clara County Children's Data Book. Santa Clara County Office of Education, et al.
- More Data Sources For Immigrants
- California Health Interview Survey. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
- California Immigrant Data Portal. University of Southern California’s Equity Research Institute.
- Children of Immigrants. Urban Institute.
- Childstats.gov. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
- KIDS COUNT Data Center. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- Migration Data Hub. Migration Policy Institute.
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