Study: Dreamers’ Homes Less Stable, More Complicated Than Legal Immigrants’

ITHACA, N.Y. — Undocumented immigrants who came to America in childhood — better known as “Dreamers” — endure complicated, less stable living situations than immigrants in the country legally, a new study finds.

Researchers from Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology compared composition, size, and indicators of stability of the homes of these young immigrants from Central America and Mexico to those of documented immigrants, and U.S.-born people. They then examined the extent of these groups’ residential and shared family ties.

“We find substantial complexity in the living arrangements of undocumented migrants, who are less likely than other groups to live in simple arrangements with partners and children and much more likely to co-reside with extended family and non-family members,” says co-author Matthew Hall, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell, in a university release. “We also find that these households are characterized by greater instability, being most likely to change in size and form over time.”

Hall and his team analyzed nationally representative data from the 1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which included large samples of Latino immigrants, information about legal status, and indicators of relationships among household members.

The results revealed undocumented Latinos living in the U.S. before age 15 are much less likely than documented Latinos, U.S.-born Latinos, and whites to be living with a partner or a partner and children. Specifically, data shows that 47% of Dreamers live with a partner or a partner and a child, compared to 55% of documented Latinos, 52% of U.S.-born Latinos, and 62% of whites.

And while just 3% of whites and 12% of legal immigrants live with extended family, such as aunts and uncles or distant cousins, a quarter of Dreamers move in with relatives outside their immediate family.

Dreamers are also about twice as likely to live with non-relatives than other groups, researchers say.

Generally speaking, the living arrangements for Dreamers tend to be more complex than a typical household. The researchers found that the average undocumented migrant lives in a home with 3.1 adults and two children, versus 2.7 adults for documented migrants, and 2.3 adults and one child for whites.

“These patterns have potentially lasting effects on social and economic well-being, and are likely to reverberate across generations with implications that spill well beyond the unauthorized population – having direct consequences for their U.S.-born children and less direct but important consequences for the citizens to whom they are linked and communities in which they live,” Hall said.

The study was published in the journal Population and Development Review.

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