With DACA’s Future in the Balance, New MPI Brief Finds Vast Majority of Those Eligible Are in the Labor Force, with 1 in 4 Juggling Work and College


WASHINGTON — Three-quarters of the unauthorized immigrants over age 16 eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program were in the labor force, with 24 percent juggling both a job and college studies, a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) issue brief finds.

The future of the DACA program, which since its launch in August 2012 has provided work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children, may be decided in the next few weeks. Ten state attorneys general have said they will head to federal court to challenge the legality of DACA unless the Trump administration agrees by September 5 to rescind the program created by President Obama.

In the brief, The Education and Work Profiles of the DACA PopulationMPI researchers use an innovative demographic method to examine the educational attainment and occupational distribution of the 1.2 million unauthorized immigrants who meet the program’s educational and other eligibility criteria. (The federal government does not collect the labor force characteristics of DACA recipients or share their educational enrollment or attainment.)

Twenty-four percent of employed DACA-eligible workers in 2014 were also college students, a rate slightly higher than the 20 percent share for all U.S. workers in the 16-32 age range. This finding suggests that DACA recipients need to work in order to afford college.

The DACA population is almost evenly divided in terms of enrollment in secondary school, high school completion or some college education. Five percent held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Gender makes a difference in terms of education, with women comprising 45 percent of the DACA-eligible population yet accounting for 54 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree.

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