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Poverty rates among Latino families have grown immensely during the pandemic.
The rates are worst for the children of Latino immigrants, according to new data from the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families (Center).
The disparity is mainly due to the heavy economic impact that the pandemic has had on immigrant families.
“The increase in poverty rates among Latino children in immigrant families during the pandemic reflects, in part, a confluence of factors in the labor market,” according to the Center.
There may also be a stigma against seeking federal assistance as well as a fear of the expired public charge rule.
With equitable policies that target economic recovery for immigrants and education about the end of public charge, we can address these disparities.
What Does the Data Say About Latino Child Poverty?
We know that Latinos have not only been hit the hardest with COVID-19 cases and deaths, but they’ve also suffered many economic losses.
Unfortunately, these economic losses have led to an increase in poverty for Latino families with children.
“Previous analysis showed that poverty rates among Latino children increased by 4.1 percentage points from 2019 to 2020 (from 23.2% to 27.3%). This increase accounted for more than half of the total increase in the number of children living in poverty over the past year,” according to the Center.
However, not all Latino children have felt the same economic impact.
Through analyzing the data from the Current Population Survey, the Center found that poverty rates increased more for Latino children with immigrant parents — both documented and undocumented — even though their rates were already higher.
Latino children in immigrant families had the following increase in poverty rates:
- From 36.3% to 42.4%, an increase of 6.1 percentage points
Latino children with U.S. born families had the following increase in poverty rates:
- From 18.1% to 21.1%, an increase of 3.0 percentage points
Children living in poverty are likely to have worse health outcomes in life than those not in poverty.
“Poverty’s material hardships ─ difficulty meeting basic food, medical, housing, and transportation needs ─ lead to worse health and life outcomes,” according to a Salud America! research review.
This disparity indicates a need to address the root causes of poverty.
Why Are the Children of Latino Immigrants in Poverty?
The increased poverty rates for Latino immigrant children is due to a variety of underlying causes that affected Latino immigrants during the pandemic.
Many are due to economic factors like rising unemployment.
“Unemployment rates, for example, more sharply increased during the pandemic for foreign-born than for native-born Latino workers. This is due, in part, to immigrant workers’ overrepresentation in occupations and industries such as food and lodging services, maintenance, and construction that were hard hit by the pandemic,” according to The Center.
The wage gap between Latino immigrants and U.S.-born Latinos also contributes to the disparity in child poverty rates.
“In addition, Latino workers who are immigrants earn less than their U.S.-born counterparts, leaving them more susceptible to economic downturns. Government programs also interact with the labor market in ways that shape Latino child poverty. For example, unemployment insurance requires sufficient formal earnings as an eligibility criterion, which may be difficult to meet for many Latino workers in low-wage or seasonal jobs,” according to The Center.
Federal assistance programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and CHIP limit the eligibility based on immigration status, meaning only some immigrants can use the programs.
In addition to limited eligibility, immigrants face barriers to entry.
“They also face a range of challenges that deter eligible family members from program participation, such as language or cultural barriers, lack of information, fears about immigration, and logistical and administrative issues,” according to the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey.
The public charge rule was a large barrier to immigrants that discouraged them from enrolling in federal assistance programs.
In 2019, former President Donald Trump altered the rule to make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain permanent residency if they participated in public benefits.
But despite the rule’s reversal by the Biden administration in March 2021, there is still hesitancy among Latino immigrants to join federal assistance programs.
That’s why it’s vital that advocates and public officials convey the public charge rule’s reversal to immigrant communities and help them get better access to federal assistance programs.
How Can We Help Immigrant Families?
The best way to mitigate the increasing poverty rates for Latino immigrant children is through increasing government aid, according to the Center.
“U.S. anti-poverty programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Medicaid have been shown to ameliorate the negative effects of child poverty. Recognizing the pandemic’s impact on immigrant families—many of which include both U.S. citizens and non-citizens—recent Economic Impact (stimulus) Payments and the temporary Child Tax Credit expansion have allowed immigrant parents to access benefits for their U.S. citizen children by making individuals and children, rather than the family, the basis of eligibility,” according to The Center.
Communicating the reversal of the public charge rule is also vital, says the Urban Institute.
“Federal, state, and local agencies can develop communications strategies to build trust and reassure immigrant families that accessing critical basic supports or seeking medical care will not affect their or their family members’ immigration statuses; such efforts can be informed by with organizations trusted in specific communities and engaging communities to understand families’ concerns, barriers to program access, and possible strategies for mitigating these effects,’ according to the Urban Institute.
Increasing immigrant families’ access to safety net programs is also one of 10 ways to cut child poverty in 10 years, according the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
That means addressing barriers like language/communication issues, confidentiality and privacy concerns, and fear of interacting with government entities to ensure eligible families access public aid.
“To ensure immigrant families’ access to safety net and emergency relief programs, states can spread awareness about programs and mitigate immigration-related fears; to do so, they can reduce the amount of information requested on application forms, avoid requesting the Social Security number or immigration status of individuals applying for benefits for relatives, improve translated materials, protect confidentiality, train program workers on complex eligibility rules, and work with community-based partners that immigrant communities trust,” according to according to the Urban Institute.
These changes from policymakers and leaders can help lift Latino immigrants out of poverty and create a healthier future for Latino children.
We can also do our part to advocate for immigrants and those who face hardships in the pandemic in our own communities.
You can help by downloading the Health Equity Report Card from Salud America!
The report card allows you to see what access your community has to healthcare, food, education, and other resources. You can help advocate for your neighbors and present the Health Equity Report Card to your city’s leadership!