“If it were to be reversed, those gains
would quickly evaporate and maybe reverse
and these parents would be back in the
shadows,” Hainmueller says.
The researchers are trying to obtain similar
mental health data of children of DACA
recipients in California and New York. Also,
as a follow-up to the Oregon research, the
team has an ongoing effort to interview
families impacted by DACA. So far, they’ve
completed 25 interviews.
“One of the things the study can’t
do, with quantitative data, is determine
what’s leading to the dramatic
improvement we see,” Hainmueller
says. “We don’t know if it’s job security
or reduced stress because there’s less
anxiety, but hopefully that will come out
in more qualitative interviews.”
The research results imply that
expanding deferred action to the millions
of unauthorized immigrant parents who
do not meet the current DACA eligibility
criteria could further promote the health
and well-being of this next generation of
American citizens. The study states that it’s
also reasonable to expect that permanent
legal status or a pathway to citizenship
would have an equal, if not greater, effect in
improving children’s health. Δ
Jens Hainmueller is a professor
of political economy (by courtesy) at
Stanford GSB and co-director of
the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab.
“We found that before DACA was
implemented, the rates of mental health
diagnosis were exactly the same; but in
the post-DACA period, mothers started to
benefit from protection and the rates of
adjustment and anxiety disorders dropped
by half,” Hainmueller says.
“When you consider the social determinants of mental health, there are a lot of
things that are hard to change, but here we
have an instance of a dramatic improvement
in the mental health of those kids. You can,
through a law, get a dramatic improvement in
health. And unlike poverty, that’s something
uniquely changeable,” he says.
But just as a law helped change mental
health outcomes for kids in this study
in a positive way, so too can an absence or
reversal of the law change outcomes in
a negative way.
BY THE NUMBERS
How DACA Reduced Anxiety Among
Using data from Oregon’s Emergency Medicaid program,
researchers narrowed in on more than 5,600 mothers born
just before and just after the cutoff date for DACA eligibility.
Before DACA was introduced, the children of these mothers
were diagnosed with anxiety disorders at roughly the same
rate. After DACA, a gulf immediately opened between the t wo
groups: Among those whose mothers were eligible for DACA,
the rate dropped by more than half, from 7.8% to 3.3%.
May Mar Jul
MO THER’S DATE OF BIR TH (IN 1981)
Oct Feb Jun Sep Apr Aug Nov Dec
A MENTAL HEALTH FAULT LINE
CHILDREN WHOSE MOTHERS WERE
BORN BEFORE JUNE 15, 1981, ARE NO T ELIGIBLE
FOR DACA PRO TEC TION.
CHILDREN WHOSE MOTHERS WERE
BORN AF TER JUNE 15, 1981, ARE ELIGIBLE
FOR DACA PROTECTION.