How Does Immigration Enforcement effect Access to Health Care and Education of U.S.-Born Children Now Living in Mexico?

Between 2003 and 2012, a large number of Mexican migrants were removed from the United States or returned to Mexico with their families as immigration enforcement escalated. Studying how this transition affected their children’s access to health and education services is a policy-relevant topic for both the United States and Mexico, as well as for the border region. Our main aim with this project is to provide evidence on the access to health and education services of U.S. born children who were living in Mexico in 2015, and explore the roles of assimilation and proper documentation in explaining such access.

We use data from the 2015 Intercensal Survey (Encuesta Intercensal, INEGI), collected by the Mexican Institute of statistics as an intermediate survey between the 2010 and 2020 full population Census. The survey has a sample of 6 million Mexican dwellings, and it is representative at the national, state, and municipal level, as well as of each locality with 50,000 plus inhabitants.  Our focus will be on the following health and educational child outcomes:

  1. Affiliation to a health care provider,
  2. Access and usage of health care services (and type) when sick,
  3. School attendance, and
  4. Age-appropriate educational attainment and, when appropriate, schooling lags

We started by using a sample of Mexican and U.S.-born children to gauge if the latter have worse health and schooling outcomes than the former. Thus far, we have found that U.S.-born children are less likely to be affiliated with a health provider and to enjoy access to health services when sick than their Mexican-born counterparts. Among children who are affiliated to health care, U.S.-born children are less likely to be affiliated with a public provider and more likely to be so with a private provider, which potentially translates into higher out-of-pocket costs for their families.

In contrast, regarding their education access, U.S.-born children seem to be not generally worse off. They are more likely than their Mexican counterparts to attend school and do not exhibit a differential propensity to lag in school or to be at a non-age-appropriate school level. In forthcoming analyses, we will examine differences by selected characteristics of the child (gender, age) and her parents (nationality, education).

Focusing on a sample of U.S.-born children, we have also begun to explore the role played by assimilation in explaining differential health care and educational access, and educational attainment. We have found that U.S.-born children have significantly weaker health care access and worse educational outcomes if the head of their household was living in the United States in 2010, 5-years before the survey, compared to children whose head of household was already living in Mexico in 2010. Children in the first group, i.e., the more recent arrivals, are less likely to enjoy any health care affiliation or to have access to a health care provider when sick. Also, they are less likely to attend school, more likely to be at a grade that is not age-appropriate and to have a longer lag at school.

Finally, we have also found preliminary evidence on the role of proper documentation (i.e., whether the child lacks a Mexican birth certificate) in explaining some of the above mentioned assimilation challenges. Notably, lacking a Mexican birth certificate interferes with health and educational access, regardless of whether they arrived more or less recently to Mexico.

Lead researcher Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes is a Spanish economist, a Professor in the Economics and Business Management faculty at the University of California, Merced and a Professor and Department Chair at San Diego State University. Her full report on this area of interest will be available late fall, 2020. Learn more about Ms. Amuedo-Dorantes here.

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