Although one-third of children of immigrants have undocumented parents, little is known about their early development. Using data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey and decennial census, we assessed how children's cognitive skills at ages 3 to 5 vary by ethnicity, maternal nativity, and maternal legal status. Specifically, Mexican children of undocumented mothers were contrasted with Mexican children of documented mothers and Mexican, white, and black children with U.S.-born mothers. Mexican children of undocumented mothers had lower emergent reading skills than all other groups and lower emergent mathematics skills than all groups with U.S.-born mothers. Multilevel regression models showed that differences in reading skills are explained by aspects of the home environment, but the neighborhood context also matters. Cross-level interactions suggest that immigrant concentration boosts emergent reading and mathematics skills for children with undocumented parents, but does not similarly benefit children whose parents are native born.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science