Immigration Enforcement and Children’s Living Arrangements Catalina Amuedo‐Dorantes & Esther Arenas‐Arroyo


Tougher immigration enforcement was responsible for 1.8 million deportations between 2009 and 2013 alone—many of them were fathers of American children. We exploit the geographic and temporal variation in the escalation of interior immigration enforcement to assess its impact on the structure of families to which many of the deported fathers of U.S.‐born children belonged. We find that the average increase in immigration enforcement during the 2005 to 2015 period has raised by 19 percent the likelihood that Hispanic U.S.‐born children might live without their parents in households headed by naturalized relatives or friends unthreatened by deportation. Likewise, the same increase in immigration enforcement has raised by 20 percent these children’s propensity to live with likely undocumented mothers who report their spouses as being absent—a reasonable finding given that most children with a likely undocumented father have undocumented mothers. Given the negative consequences of being raised by a single parent or without parents, plus the parallel increase in interior immigration enforcement, gaining a better understanding of the collateral damage of heightened enforcement on the families to which these children belong is well warranted.


Arenas‐Arroyo, E. and Amuedo-Dorantes, C. ‘Immigration Enforcement and Children’s Living Arrangements’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management,