Elevating Equity

Over one-quarter of all U.S. children live in a family with at least one parent born outside of the U.S. These immigrant families with children are much less likely to utilize government programs that they are eligible for, such as food stamps and health insurance coverage. Lower rates of utilization are due to both structural barriers, such as lack of access to and knowledge of programs, and systemic patterns of exclusions, through policies that have aimed to exclude immigrants from them. These government programs are intended to benefit parents and children, and thus it is important to understand their usage within immigrant families to address inequities. Similarly, characteristics of communities have been found to support immigrant families, and it is important to understand the aspects of communities that offer the most support to build upon strengths within immigrant communities.

The Elevating Equity (EE), Addressing Inequities for Immigrant Families: Promoting Child and Parent Well-being through Social Policies and Services project aims to investigate the role of structural factors, such as variation in social policy exclusions for immigrants, and the strengths and assets of immigrant communities, such as community characteristics, are associated with the well-being of immigrant families in the U.S. The first study will explore how receiving social policies are related to parents’ well-being and children’s development over early childhood. The second study will examine how differences across states in regulations that exclude immigrants from social policies are linked with the well-being of immigrant parents and their children.  Finally, the third study will explore community-level characteristics that benefit immigrant parents and their children. 

The team will answer these questions by examining them in a large representative sample of low-income children from immigrant families that were followed from birth until they entered kindergarten. They will also talk with immigrant families with young children, to understand their experiences with program receipt, program eligibility, and community-level factors that serve to support their families. With the insights from these focus groups, they will revisit our initial findings and then conduct a second set of focus groups with families in California and New Hampshire. The project will be guided by an advisory board made up of immigrant community members, advocates, and researchers who will provide input into the study design, key methodological decision-points, and dissemination strategies throughout the process. This cyclical research plan is designed to center the experiences of immigrant communities in the forefront of the research to address issues of equity. Findings from this project will provide information to policymakers and program providers about where resources should be targeted to benefit immigrant parents and their children, where additional outreach is necessary, considerations in the design of programs and the eligibility guidelines, and aspects of communities that support immigrant families. 

Funders: Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

ARC team: Caitlin Lombardi, Kevin Ferreira van Leer, Rachel Chazan Cohen, Vanessa Esquivel, Anne Berset

Advisory Board Members: Valerie LaCarte (Migration Policy Institute), Juan Carlos Gomez (The Center for Law and Social Policy), Jessica Chicco (Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition), and Ann Rivera (Ex officio; Administration for Children & Families; Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation)