- Posted By: Myriam Grajales-Hall
- Written by: Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
The study by UC Irvine professor Frank Bean and three other researchers documented the persistent educational disadvantages for such children — who number 3.8 million, with about 80 percent born in the United States.
The study's authors said their findings highlighted the need to help such families gain legal status and a more secure future, arguing that deporting all of them was unrealistic.
"By not providing pathways to legalization, the United States not only risks creating an underclass, but also fails to develop a potentially valuable human resource," the report said.
The study found that children of illegal immigrants averaged 11 years of education, compared with about 13 years for those whose parents were legal residents. But once illegal immigrants found ways to legalize their status, the study found, their children's educational levels rose substantially.
Bean said children of illegal immigrants face high levels of stress, lack money for academic enrichment activities and, particularly for boys, pressures to work that lead many to drop out of school. The study, however, found no differences in the education levels of boys and girls born to illegal immigrants.
Since the country heavily depends on the labor of illegal immigrants, politicians should find ways to deal with the problem, Bean said.
"We need the work these people do but haven't figured out a way to make them regular members of society," he said. "So we're reproducing a very handicapped and disadvantaged generation."
The study analyzed data from a 2004 survey of 4,780 adult children of immigrants in the five-county Los Angeles metropolitan area. Among them, 1,350 were children of Mexican immigrants; 45% of them had undocumented parents.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Study finds education gap for illegal Mexican migrants' children,” by Teresa Watanabe, October 22, 2011.