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Report: There's massive disparity in child well-being by race and immigration status

Published: Wednesday, July 31 2013 5:45 p.m. MDT

A new report examines the significant disparities in the education, economic well-being and health of children in the U.S. based on their race-ethnicity and whether or not their parents are immigrants.

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A study released last week by the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) found large disparities in education, health and economic status among minority children based on both their race and the immigration status of their parents.

For example, researchers found that Hispanic children of immigrant parents are more likely to live in poverty, to lack pre-kindergarten education and health insurance, and to die between the ages of 1 and 19 compared to Hispanic children of U.S.-born parents.

FCD data also show that Hispanic children of immigrant parents and black children of U.S.-born parents is considerably lower than all other groups for nearly half of all indicators studied. They were most at risk of growing up in poverty or near-poverty, of living in a family with low median income, at highest risk for child mortality (ages 1-19), and least likely to have very good or excellent health, according to a press release.

The study's findings on education are most surprising, according to Donald J. Hernandez, author of the report. Analysis of results from National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests found that the majority of minority children are not reading proficiently in the fourth grade. These results do not appear to be related to what language the child speaks at home. NAEP results show that reading and math test scores are virtually the same for minority children regardless of whether English is or is not the primary language spoken in the home.

But it isn't all bad news for minority children. Herandez also found that children who have immigrant parents are more likely to live in a two-parent home, have parents who are gainfully employed, and be born healthy.

"Immigrants come to the U.S. with very strong families. Parents are working hard. They're likely to have secure employment. They're often working full-time, and they come healthy. They come to the U.S. with the diets of their native countries. Those diets are much healthier than junk food, fast food, that we get in the U.S," Hernandez said in an interview with NPR.

What seems to be happening is that "the longer that Hispanics spend in the U.S., the more they become Americanized to some of these unhealthy habits," he said. "Over time, as well, Hispanic immigrants in particular have very high poverty rates, and poverty has negative consequences for children in terms of their health, in terms of their educational outcomes."

mwhite@deseretnews.com

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