23 Percent of Public Schoolchildren Live in Immigrant Households

Brendan Kirby, LifeZette, March 16, 2017

Almost a quarter of the nation’s public school students live in immigrant households, raising questions about America’s long-term ability to continue its tradition of assimilation, according to a study released Thursday.

The report, published by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, indicates that 23 percent of public school students live in a household with at least one immigrant parent. That is more than double the percentage in 1990 and up from 7 percent in 1980.

Because immigrants are not evenly distributed throughout the country, however, some schools have significantly higher percentages of immigrant children. The report breaks down the data by census units called public use microdata areas (PUMA), which are roughly between 100,000 and 200,000 residents and generally respect county or city boundaries. The average number of public school students in each PUMA is about 20.600.

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Of the nation’s 2,351 PUMAs, just 700 account for two-thirds of all students from immigrant households. Those areas also account for almost a third of all public school enrollment. Within those PUMAs, many have student enrollments where the children of immigrants account for 70 percent or more of all students.

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Immigrant households overall represent 13.5 percent of the total. Camarota said children from immigrant households make up a much larger share of the public school population because of slightly higher birth rates among immigrants and because children from native households are more likely to attend private school.

Percent of Public School Children from Immigrant Homes

Percent of public school students from immigrant homes. (Credit Image: Center for Immigration Studies, click map for full report.)

School systems that have large numbers of students with poor English skills also incur costs associated with making students proficient in their non-native language. A study last year for the Federation for American Immigration Reform indicated that one in 10 students have been designated as Limited English Proficiency. The cost of LEP programs is $59.8 billion a year.

The Center for Immigration Studies report estimates that between a quarter and a third of the public school students from immigrant households in 2015 were the children of illegal immigrants. Most of those children — of both legal and illegal immigrants — are American citizens because they were born in the United States. The report pegs it at 83.5 percent.

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