Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. PF 1.4 Immigrant Children and Children of Immigrants

01/01/2000

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Rates of immigration have varied substantially over time, as have the countries and cultures from which these immigrants originate. Immigrant children and children of immigrants are of particular interest, since they may have special needs (cultural and lingual adjustment and misunderstandings, etc.) that must be addressed throughout the education system.

Immigrant Children

The percentage of America’s children and youth under age 20 who are foreign born has been increasing steadily over the last several decades, from 1.2 percent in 1970 to 3.7 percent in 1990.

Differences by Age. Older children are more likely than younger children to be foreign born. In 1990, 6.5 percent of youth ages 15 through 19 were foreign born, compared with only 1.4 percent of children under age 5 (see Table PF 1.4.A).

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin. The percentage of children and youth under age 20 who are foreign born varies substantially by racial and ethnic background (see Table PF 1.4.A). In 1980, less than 2 percent of whites, blacks, and Native Americans were foreign born, compared with 40 percent of Asians and 14 percent of Hispanics. By 1990, the percentage of foreign-born Asian children had declined from 40 to 33.2 percent, while the percentage of foreign-born Hispanic children increased to almost 16 percent. More recent data for children under age 18 show a similar pattern, though differences in both data source and age range prevent direct comparison with earlier data (see Table PF 1.4.B).

Children of Immigrants

The Current Population Survey periodically collects information on fertility among the foreign born. According to data from the Current Population Survey, the number of foreignborn women of childbearing age almost doubled between 1983 and 1994, increasing from 3.3 million to 6.2 million. Birth rates among foreign-born women increased between 1983 and 1986, but have decreased somewhat since that time.1 The children of these foreignborn women need to be watched closely as they move through the educational system in order to ensure healthy cultural and linguistic adjustment and understanding. While a large number of children of immigrants seem to adjust well in schools, problems can and do arise (see Table PF 1.4.C).

Table PF 1.4.A. Percentage of children under age 20 in the United States who were foreign born,a by age, and by race and Hispanic origin:b 1970, 1980, and 1990

  1970 1980 1990
All foreign-born children 1.2 2.9 3.7

Under age 5

0.6 1.4 1.4

Ages 5-9

1.1 2.6 2.7

Ages 10-14

1.4 3.2 4.3

Ages 15-19

1.8 4.1 6.5
Race and Hispanic originb

White

1.2 1.7 1.8

Black

0.5 1.8 2.2

American Indian/Alaska Native

1.5 1.1

Asian/Pacific Islander

40.0 33.2

Hispanic

14.0 15.8

a Includes both immigrants (citizens and non-citizens) and illegal aliens.

b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Estimates for whites, blacks, Asians, and Native Americans include persons of Hispanic origin.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census, National Origin and Language, PC(2-1A), 1970; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Detailed Characteristics of the Population, 1980, Chapter D, U.S. Summary; U.S. Bureau of the Census, The Foreign-Born Population in the U.S., 1990, CP-3-1, and 1990 STF-3A census files.


Table PF 1.4.B. Percentage of children under age 18 in the United States who were foreign born,a by race and Hispanic origin:b 1994-1997

  1994 1995 1996 1997
All foreign-born children 4 4 4 4
Race and Hispanic originb
White 3 3 3
Black 2 2 2
Asian/Pacific Islander 25 28 27
Hispanic 14 14 13

a Includes both immigrants (citizens and non-citizens) and illegal aliens.

b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Estimates for whites, blacks, and Asians include persons of Hispanic origin.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-20, no. 486, Tables 1 and 2; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Paper Listing, Series PPL-58, Series PPL-59, Series PPL-92, The Foreign-Born Population, 1995, 1996, 1997, Detailed Tables, Tables 1 and 2. All percentages calculated by Child Trends, based on number estimates from these sources.


Table PF 1.4.C. Percentage of children with selected student outcomes by immigrant status and children's race and ethnicity: Children ages 3 to 8, 1996

  Total children ages 3–8 Children of Immigrants
Total NativeBorn ForeignBorn Hispanic Asian  White
Total (thousands) 22,959 3,213 2,782 430 1,734 239 837
Student Outcome

Child gets mostly A'sa

58% 54% 54% 53% 41% 63% 51%

Child enjoys schoola

50 45 46 37 37 51 56

Child participates in extracurricular activitiesb

74 63 65 56 49 78 79

Child experienced problems at schoolb

29 25 26 24 30 17 22

Child ever repeated a gradeb

5 5 5 6 8 3 3

a Applies to children in grades 1 and above.

b Applies to children in kindergarten and higher grades.

Source: Nord, & Griffin, 1999.


1 Nord, C.W. 1996. What is Causing School Enrollment to Increase? A Demographic Explanation. Rockville, MD: Westat

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