Immigrant Kids, Married Parents and Poverty
The Health and Well-Being of Young Children of Immigrants The Urban Institute Available free at www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=311139
For many Americans, the hallmark of a healthy childhood is growing up in a household with two married parents, one of whom stays home while the other works. But that ideal scenario doesn’t correspond to better conditions for children in immigrant families.
Nearly nine in 10 children of immigrants under age 6 live in two-parent families – a status held by only three-quarters of the children of U.S.-born parents, according to this new study. But while the young children of immigrants are less likely than children of natives to live in families where both parents work (43 percent vs. 50 percent) or to be placed in center-based child care (17 percent vs. 26 percent), their families are significantly more likely to have low incomes (50 percent vs. 26 percent).
More than one in five young children in two-parent immigrant families lives below the federal poverty line – triple the rate among young children with native-born parents. Even when both parents work, children of immigrant parents are more than twice as likely as children of natives to live in low-income families (defined as earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level). In a statement issued with the study, co-author Randy Capps draws some timely conclusions:
“The high poverty rate among young children of immigrants living with two parents means that strategies emphasizing marriage and work are not enough to improve their situations. Work supports, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps and child care, and strategies that improve [parental] work force skills, such as English-language and basic education, are the most important means of addressing their economic difficulties.”
Children with at least one foreign-born parent make up 22 percent of the total U.S. population of children under age 6, and are expected to comprise 30 percent of that population by 2020. The vast majority of such children (93 percent) are citizens. More than one-quarter of the 5.1 million young children in immigrant families are poor, compared with 19 percent of native families. The study connects that higher poverty rate with an increased likelihood that immigrant children will experience food insecurity, crowded housing, poor health and low academic achievement.
Yet even when such children are eligible for public benefits, they use those benefits at just half the rate of children of natives. One reason: The noncitizen parents of eligible children are often unaware of their child’s eligibility, or they’re afraid of the legal consequences of receiving benefits.
In light of the swelling ranks of children of immigrant parents, the researchers predict that U.S. policies affecting young children and their families will increasingly be judged by their effects on the health, well-being and school readiness of the children of immigrants.
The report received funding from the Foundation for Child Development and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Do Anti-Smoking
Efforts Affect Youth Smoking?
State Tobacco Control Spending and Youth Smoking Bridging the Gap Available free at www.rwjf.org/files/research/Tauras%20-%20Youth%20Smoking%201-26-05.pdf
When researchers from this policy research program combined a decade’s worth of data on the smoking behavior of teens with state per-capita expenditures on tobacco prevention, what it found made perfect sense: The more a state spends on anti-smoking efforts, the less kids smoke.
It also found some nonsense.
More than 75 percent of states spend less than half of the minimum tobacco prevention funds recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which says that spending at the minimum amount by all states could save more than 600,000 lives and $23.4 billion in smoking-related health care costs.
Five states – Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Tennessee – and the District of Columbia spend no money at all on such programs.
“Tobacco prevention is clearly one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments the states can make,” said Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Executive Director William Corr, in a statement that accompanied publication of the study. The analysis, done at the request of the campaign and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), is published in the February 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The study uses data from the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future Study of drug, alcohol and tobacco use among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders.
Researchers found a “negative and statistically significant relationship” between states’ per-capita spending on smoking prevention programs and the percentage of youth who smoke and how much they smoke.
Using three spending models, researchers determined that state spending at the exact CDC minimum recommended amount between 1991 and 2000 would have lowered youth smoking by between 3 and 14 percent in each state.
According to the most recent annual ranking of state spending by four national anti-smoking groups, states have allocated $538 million for tobacco prevention programs in fiscal 2005, a decrease of nearly 5 percent from last year.
In an interview for RWJF’s website, John Tauras, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, noted that tobacco control allocations among the states have dropped 27 percent since 2001, while revenue from state-implemented tobacco taxes and the states’ 2002 Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry has risen more than 14 percent.
“The $538 million represents only 2.7 percent of the [states’] total tobacco revenue,” Tauras told RWJF. “That means 97.3 percent of tobacco funds will not be used for tobacco control programs.”
Three states – Delaware, Maine and Mississippi – fund their tobacco prevention programs at or above the CDC recommended minimum. The campaign estimates that collectively, those states are preventing 67,240 teens from beginning to smoke each year, which will eventually translate to 21,500 fewer smoking-related deaths and $807 million less in health care costs. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ table on states’ spending on tobacco prevention is at http://tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0273.pdf.