The higher educational trajectories of undocumented youth in New York City

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10 Scopus citations


Despite growth in the number of Latino students enrolled in U.S. colleges, foreign-born Latinos are less likely than both native-born Latinos and other immigrant groups to graduate. However, it is difficult to understand the lower educational attainment of Latino immigrants without considering variation in enrolment by legal status. Until recently, undocumented immigrants have been blocked from higher education in the United States. Drawing upon the education and immigrant illegality literature, as well as longitudinal administrative data on 35,400 college students, we examine the association between students’ legal status and their educational achievement, or GPA–an important predictor of educational attainment. We find that, despite high achievement in high school and upon first enrolling in college, undocumented students do not experience upward achievement over time, otherwise known in the education literature as educational progression. Rather, their growth is flat, and their level of achievement declines slightly, what we call an educational regression, relative to their documented and foreign-born citizen Latino peers. We identify several individual- and structural-level factors that help explain the pattern and timing of undocumented student regression. The results have implications for studies of immigrant inequality, immigrant incorporation, and immigration law in the U.S. and globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3822-3845
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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