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With DACA’s Future in the Balance, New MPI Brief Finds Vast Majority of Those Eligible Are in the Labor Force, with 1 in 4 Juggling Work and College
Press Release
Thursday, August 17, 2017

With DACA’s Future in the Balance, New MPI Brief Finds Vast Majority of Those Eligible Are in the Labor Force, with 1 in 4 Juggling Work and College

WASHINGTON — Three-quarters of the unauthorized immigrants over age 16 eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program were in the labor force, with 24 percent juggling both a job and college studies, a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) issue brief finds.

The future of the DACA program, which since its launch in August 2012 has provided work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children, may be decided in the next few weeks. Ten state attorneys general have said they will head to federal court to challenge the legality of DACA unless the Trump administration agrees by September 5 to rescind the program created by President Obama.

In the brief, The Education and Work Profiles of the DACA Population, MPI researchers use an innovative demographic method to examine the educational attainment and occupational distribution of the 1.2 million unauthorized immigrants who meet the program’s educational and other eligibility criteria. (The federal government does not collect the labor force characteristics of DACA recipients or share their educational enrollment or attainment.)

Twenty-four percent of employed DACA-eligible workers in 2014 were also college students, a rate slightly higher than the 20 percent share for all U.S. workers in the 16-32 age range. This finding suggests that DACA recipients need to work in order to afford college.

The DACA population is almost evenly divided in terms of enrollment in secondary school, high school completion or some college education. Five percent held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Gender makes a difference in terms of education, with women comprising 45 percent of the DACA-eligible population yet accounting for 54 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree.

In the aggregate, the MPI research finds the educational attainment of those eligible to apply for DACA lagged that of counterparts in the overall U.S. population. It also finds that the DACA population is more likely to be in lower-skilled jobs when compared to all U.S. workers in the same age cohort.

Still, strikingly different patterns emerge when the DACA population is compared to DACA-ineligible unauthorized immigrants of similar age. The DACA ineligible are concentrated in work that involves manual labor and is often in an outdoor setting, such as construction. By contrast DACA-eligible workers are concentrated in white-collar occupations that are carried out indoors in formal business settings, with regular hours and better pay.

“Although DACA-eligible workers are more likely to hold lower-skilled jobs than U.S. workers overall, they are significantly more likely to be in white-collar office jobs when compared to unauthorized workers in the same age range who are DACA ineligible,” said MPI Senior Fellow Michael Fix. “Women appeared to benefit significantly from DACA, as they have achieved higher educational attainment and found employment in higher-skilled occupations than DACA men, and have broader labor force participation than unauthorized immigrant women ineligible for DACA.”

The researchers conclude that if DACA is terminated and recipients lose their employment authorization, most would be unable to continue working in white-collar occupations and would have fewer incentives or financial means to enroll in and complete college.

Read the issue brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/education-and-work-profiles-daca-population.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.