Paths to mobility: a longitudinal evaluation of earnings among Latino/a DACA recipients in California

Caitlin Patler*, Jo Mhairi Hale, Erin R. Hamilton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Undocumented immigration status is a structural barrier to socioeconomic mobility. The regularization of legal status may therefore promote the socioeconomic mobility of formerly undocumented immigrants. The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provided protection against deportation and access to work authorization for eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. While studies using cross-sectional data find that DACA led to improved socioeconomic status, no studies have examined the socioeconomic status of DACA recipients over time and few have disaggregated among groups of DACA recipients. Drawing from one of the only longitudinal studies of DACA recipients, we use growth curve models to estimate individuals’ wage trajectories from the year prior to DACA receipt up to 77 months post-DACA receipt among Latino/a DACA participants in California. In this sample, DACA is associated with improved earnings trajectories for recipients, compared with nonrecipients. Among DACA recipients, there is variation in earnings growth by stage of the life course, as measured by age and educational attainment. Notably, DACA tenure appears to be particularly beneficial for individuals who attain DACA at earlier ages and who earn college degrees. This study contributes to our understanding of the role of immigration laws and policies in structuring immigrant integration and socioeconomic mobility in the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1146-1164
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number9
Early online date3 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Undocumented immigrants
  • DACA
  • Immigrant integration
  • Economic integration
  • 1.5 generation immigrants
  • Latinos


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