Volume 39 - Article 40 | Pages 1065–1080  

Child poverty across immigrant generations in the United States, 1993–2016: Evidence using the official and supplemental poverty measures

By Brian Thiede, Matthew M. Brooks


Background: Recent increases in ethno-racial diversity in the United States are paralleled by growing representation of first- and second-generation immigrants, especially among children. Socioeconomic inequalities along the lines of immigrant generation, race, and ethnicity suggest such demographic changes may result in greater disparities among recent, more-diverse cohorts of children.

Objective: Describe poverty rates among US children across five immigrant generation groups, using the US government’s official poverty measure (OPM) and a supplemental poverty measure (SPM), which accounts for government transfers and costs of living.

Methods: Using data from the Current Population Survey and historical SPM estimates from 1993–2016, we describe trends in child poverty, stratified by immigrant generation. We compare estimates of inter-generational differences and temporal changes based on the OPM and SPM, and we conduct stratified analyses for Hispanic and Asian children.

Results: We find persistent differences in poverty rates between immigrant generations. First-generation non-citizens and second-generation children with two foreign-born parents have consistently higher poverty rates than other generations, between which there are minimal disparities. Differences between OPM- and SPM-based estimates suggest public supports and costs of living have differential welfare effects across groups.

Contribution: We provide a historical record of child poverty differentials across immigrant generations, which have been understudied. Results demonstrate heterogeneity in the economic status of first- and second-generation children, which would be masked using other immigrant-generation typologies. Differences in OPM- and SPM-based measures raise questions about inter-generational disparities in public supports and costs of living, and stratified results highlight the intersection of race, ethnicity, and nativity as axes of inequality.

Author's Affiliation

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