RELEASE: 5-Year Study of DACA Beneficiaries Looks at Positive Effects on Recipients and Communities

Washington, D.C. — Coming out of arguably one of the most comprehensive studies on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) since its implementation in 2012, the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP) and the Center for American Progress released today a new analysis that looks specifically at DACA beneficiaries without high school or college degrees whose life trajectories have been improved by access to education and training programs thanks to DACA. This analysis draws on interviews with 319 respondents who, prior to receiving DACA, dropped out of high school; finished their education with a high school degree; or did not complete college due to financial, legal, or motivational barriers. Like the majority of DACA recipients, these particular beneficiaries have been able to increase their job mobility, and increased incomes and financial stability lead to greater spending. According to the analysis, this spending “percolates directly into household spending, lifting hopes for longer-term goals such as purchasing a home,” and ultimately boosts the country’s economy through paying taxes.

“Over the past five years, more Americans have come to know the plight of DACA recipients,” said Roberto G. Gonzales, an assistant professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and the principal investigator of the National UnDACAmented Research Project. “Much of what we know from research and the media is from the experiences of politically and socially active young people with advanced levels of education. But our research shows that DACA’s impact has been arguably most felt by those who, because of their immigration status, discontinued their schooling too early. Of the hundreds we have interviewed, many are returning to GED programs, workforce development, certificate programs, and college campuses. And they’re using these opportunities as building blocks to launch careers.”

Work authorization, the study found, provides the assurance that beneficiaries will be competitive for employment in their chosen industries after completing job training programs, which they view as stepping stones to four-year degrees and opportunities to gain relevant job experience. And not only does DACA lead to greater job mobility, skills-matching, and better jobs that allow recipients to save money for additional education and to support family, it also improves access to opportunities through the ability to obtain driver’s licenses.

“DACA has opened doors of opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and changed their lives for the better, benefiting not only them and their families and communities but the country as a whole,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at CAP. “But it is still a temporary solution, and the success of DACA underscores the need for a permanent solution that provides a path to citizenship, something that poll after poll shows the American people support. The administration should genuinely commit to strengthening DACA while working to enact a meaningful legislative solution to allow these aspiring Americans and others to continue to prosper and contribute.”

Of the study’s 2,381 DACA recipients, approximately:

  • 61 percent took on new jobs.
  • 45 percent increased their earnings, with hourly salaries increasing from $5 to $8 per hour to more than $14 per hour, and most at least doubled their previous salaries, earning between $25,000 and $30,000 per year.
  • 57 percent obtained a driver’s license within the first 16 months of DACA.

Read the full brief,Taking Giant Leaps Forward: Experiences of a Range of DACA Beneficiaries at the 5-Year Mark.”

For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6258.