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Market Watch: Why ‘Dreamers’ are less likely to drop out of high school

Market Watch covered the research of SMU government policy expert economist Elira Kuka.

New study suggests DACA pushed students to stay in school.

Journalist Jillian Berman with the website Market Watch covered the research of SMU government policy expert Elira Kuka. Kuka’s working paper, “Do Human Capital Decisions Respond to the Returns to Education? Evidence from DACA,” was released in February by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

An assistant professor in the SMU Department of Economics, Kuka and her colleagues found that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under fire by the Trump Administration has significantly changed the lives of young people who came to the United States illegally as children.

Kuka’s research focus is on understanding how government policy effects individual behavior and well-being, the extent to which it provides social insurance during times of need, and its effectiveness in alleviation of poverty and inequality.

Her current research topics include the potential benefits of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, the protective power of the U.S. safety net during recessions and various issues in academic achievement.

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By Jillian Berman
Market Watch

If students believe they’re education will pay off, they may be more likely to continue with it.

Enacting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, increased high school graduation rates among undocumented immigrants by 15% and college enrollment rates by 20%. That’s according to a study by economists at Dartmouth College, Southern Methodist University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research on Monday.

DACA provides work authorization and deferral of deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. In addition to eligibility requirements surrounding the age at which undocumented immigrants came to the U.S., DACA also has an education requirement — that immigrants be in school, completed high school or a GED program (unless they’re a veteran).

“You’ve given them a huge carrot to stay in school,” said Na’ama Shenhav, an economics professor at Dartmouth and one of the authors of the study. The opportunity for protection from deportation allows students to envision a possible return on their education that wasn’t available before. “For a population that previously was experiencing very low incentives to stay in school, this could have substantially re-oriented their perception of opportunities,” Shenhav said.

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By Margaret Allen

Senior research writer, SMU Public Affairs