Immigrant Families and Kids See Economic Gains in 2017 — But Disparities Persist

Posted July 19, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Percentage of children in low-income working families by family nativity (2008–2017)

The strength­ened U.S. econ­o­my seems to be buoy­ing chil­dren in immi­grant fam­i­lies, despite these fam­i­lies hav­ing less access to resources rel­a­tive to their native-born counterparts.

The share of chil­dren in immi­grant fam­i­lies liv­ing below 200% of the pover­ty thresh­old — set at $49,716 in annu­al earn­ings for a fam­i­ly of four — has dropped below the 50% mark for the first time since the start of the Great Reces­sion. After peak­ing at 55% in 2011, this sta­tis­tic now sits at 48%.

Among immi­grant par­ents who are work­ing, a slight­ly high­er pro­por­tion have earned enough to lift their fam­i­lies above the 200% pover­ty thresh­old. The per­cent­age of kids liv­ing in low-income immi­grant fam­i­lies, despite at least one par­ent work­ing full time, dropped from 36% in 2016 to 34% in 2017.

Despite this improve­ment, immi­grant fam­i­lies are still more like­ly to strug­gle to make ends meet com­pared to their native-born coun­ter­parts. Nation­wide, this sta­tis­tic has ranged from 20% to 22% since 2008, land­ing at 21% in 2017.

Addi­tion­al­ly: Every state in the south­ern Unit­ed States with a size­able pop­u­la­tion of immi­grant fam­i­lies report­ed at least half of these fam­i­lies liv­ing below the 200% pover­ty thresh­old. The two excep­tions in this cat­e­go­ry were Mary­land and Virginia.

Cal­i­for­nia — the state with the high­est per­cent­age of chil­dren in immi­grant fam­i­lies — reports that 47% of its immi­grant fam­i­lies are liv­ing below the 200% pover­ty threshold.

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