The Effect of State Immigration Policies on Health Care for Children of Immigrants

In the 2000s, states and localities began to diverge in their level of cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts. This research examined whether states’ driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and local sanctuary policies increase the likelihood that children of immigrants receive adequate health care. We focused on access to preventive health care, including whether children in immigrant families (1) have a usual source of care (USC) provider, (2) have unmet medical needs, or (3) had recent well-child visits.

Findings demonstrated that sanctuary policies and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants improved preventive health outcomes among children of immigrants. These policies were shown to increase the likelihood that children in immigrant households have a USC provider and that they significantly reduce the likelihood that children in these households have unmet medical needs. The effects were particularly strong for children of likely undocumented parents; about 80 percent of the children of undocumented immigrants are U.S. citizens

Data came from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey merged with longitudinal state immigration policies. A difference-in-difference analysis was conducted. 

Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic shine a light on the importance of preventive health practices and access to health care. In the face of COVID-19, now is the time to take a closer look at how immigration policy impacts the health of all immigrant families and, in turn, the health of our country.

This project was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Evidence for Action

The Relationship Between States’ Immigrant-Related Policies and Access to Health Care Among Children of Immigrants

As an additional resource, please visit our State Immigration Policy Profiles.

Project Staff
Heather Koball, PhD, Co-Director
Seth Hartig, MA, Senior Research Associate
James Kirby, Senior Researcher, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Seth Hartig