Skip to navigationSkip to content

A quarter of all children in the US have an immigrant parent

An immigrant and a child of immigrants
Reutes/Lucy Nicholson
Raised by immigrants.
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

It may be a cliché to say the US is a nation of immigrants, but the data show it’s very much a reality.

Some 18 million Americans under the age of 18 live with at least one immigrant parent, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. Their numbers have been growing over the past couple decades, and so has the proportion they make of all children living in the country.

In 2015, that was 26%.

Immigrants’ kids are bound to have a big impact on US politics and policies in coming years. The vast majority of them, 15.8 million, or 88%, were born in the US. 

Their background will likely influence their politics, particularly on the heated immigration issue. Research shows it can also shape the kind of life they will lead. A series of surveys carried out between 1991 and 2006 found that the children of immigrants with low skill levels, particularly from Mexico, Laos, and Cambodia, trail behind other Americans in education and income.

Closing that gap will continue to be a challenge for government authorities and advocacy groups. The children of immigrants made up about a third of the 29.4 million US children living in poor families in 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute’s figures.

More immediately, though, a big group of second-generation Americans poses a troubling question for US president Donald Trump and his administration. There were 4.1 million young US citizens—around 6% of all US kids—being raised by an unauthorized immigrant from 2009-2013. Who will take care of them if their parents are deported under the new president’s more draconian immigration guidelines?

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.