Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is the first large-scale immigration reform to affect undocumented immigrants in the United States in decades and offers eligible undocumented youth temporary relief from deportation and renewable work permits. While DACA has improved the economic conditions and mental health of undocumented immigrants, we do not know how DACA improves the social mobility of undocumented immigrants through its effect on educational attainment. This paper uses administrative data on students attending a large public university to estimate the effect of DACA on undocumented students’ educational outcomes. The data are unique because they accurately identify students’ legal status, account for individual heterogeneity, and allow separate analysis of students attending community colleges versus baccalaureate-granting, 4-year colleges. Results from difference-in-difference estimates demonstrate that as a temporary work-permit program, DACA incentivizes work over educational investments but that the effect of DACA on educational investments depends on how easily colleges accommodate working students. At 4-year colleges, DACA induces undocumented students to make binary choices between attending school on a full-time basis or dropping out of school to work. At community colleges, undocumented students have the flexibility to simply reduce course work to accommodate increased work hours. Overall, the results suggest that the precarious and temporary nature of DACA creates barriers to educational investments.
Amy Hsin is Associate Professor of Sociology at Queens College, City University of New York. Her research is at the intersection of social demography, stratification, education, race/ethnicity and immigration. Dr. Hsin earned her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and was an NICHD Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor prior to joining the faculty at Queens College. During her ARC Fellowship, Dr. Hsin will be working on a large mixed-methods project seeking to understand the immigration experiences, educational and occupational trajectories and family dynamics of an ethnically diverse population of undocumented college students. The project will integrate rigorous analysis of administrative data with in-depth interviews to understand: (1) the effect of immigration status on educational outcomes, (2) the effect of immigration reform on educational and occupational outcomes and immigration experiences (i.e. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and reforms to New York States professional licensing laws) and (3) how institutional policies and practices at college campuses affect the educational outcomes of undocumented students. More information about the project can be found here. In addition to this line of research, Dr. Hsin will continue her work on the causes and consequences of Asian American academic achievement. One project will examine the role of gender norms and peer culture in explaining the gender gap in achievement among Asian American students. Another project seeks to understand role of friendship networks in shaping the achievement patterns among Asian American students and their peers. Dr. Hsin has published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Demography, Economics of Education Review and Journal of Marriage and Family. Her work has been supported by the William T. Grant Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, and has been featured in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, the Economist, TIME, and NPR.