Immigrants to the United States make up about 13 percent of our national population, but according to a recent analysis of American Community Survey data by researchers at the Urban Institute, the proportion of American children with at least one immigrant parent is much higher: close to one in four.
Between 2006 and 2013, their numbers rose from 15.7 million to 17.6 million, and it was this growth that prevented the overall population of U.S. children from shrinking in the same period. In the Urban researchers’ words, “The number of children of native-born parents fell 1.3 million, while the number of children with at least one immigrant parent increased 1.9 million” from 2006 to 2013.
If numbers like these come as a surprise to you, that may be because of where you live. Almost half of all children of immigrants live in one of these 10 major metro areas: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Dallas, Washington, DC, Riverside (CA), San Francisco, and Atlanta.
Kids born to immigrants face a relatively high risk of poverty and other challenges. Twenty-six percent of children with at least one immigrant parent, compared with 19 percent of children of native-born parents, reside in households below the federal poverty line, the Urban Institute notes. And for 41 percent of children of immigrants, neither parent is proficient in English, which could set children up to struggle in school.
However, immigrants’ children are more likely than others to enjoy the advantages of living with two parents (81 percent versus 68 percent for children of U.S.-born adults). Their rising rate of enrollment in early education (ages three to five) is also a piece of good news, as separate research indicates that pre-K programs are especially helpful to children of immigrants.
It’s worth underlining, too, that some children whose parent(s) immigrated to the U.S. likely have advantages over the average American child. As the Pew Research Center reported late last year, the foreign-born adults who entered the U.S. in the past five years are more likely than the native-born to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, and having educated parents comes with a number of benefits.
Whatever your views on immigration policy, the Urban Institute’s new figures make it clear that caring about the future of America means caring about the children of immigrants.