RELEASE: DACA Recipients’ Economic and Educational Gains Continue to Grow, According to Largest Study to Date

Washington, D.C. — According to the largest and latest study of its kind to date, the economic and educational gains made by beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) continue to grow. The national survey, published today by Tom K. Wong, professor at the University of California San Diego; the Center for American Progress; the National Immigration Law Center (NILC); and United We Dream (UWD) finds that even during a time when the future of the DACA is uncertain, recipients continue to make positive and significant contributions to the economy, gaining higher wages, buying cars and houses, and starting businesses, benefiting the entire nation.

“The available evidence couldn’t be clearer: DACA positively impacts the lives of recipients, their families, and the American economy more broadly,” said Tom K. Wong, professor at the University of California San Diego and co-author of the report. “As the data show, 97 percent of DACA recipients are currently in school or are working. DACA recipients have been able to pursue educational opportunities they previously could not and have also been able to move to jobs that better fit their education and training. As a result, the American economy has a more prepared and competitive workforce. Some are using their entrepreneurial talents to start their own businesses and create jobs. Others are now working for some of the largest companies in the world. DACA has provided a glimpse of the potential of these young people, and their contributions are continuing to grow. A decision to end DACA now would be a mistake.”  

Highlights of the survey’s findings include:

  • Work authorization is critical in helping DACA recipients participate more fully in the labor force, with 97 percent of respondents currently employed or enrolled in school. After receiving DACA, 69 percent of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay; 54 percent moved to a job that better fit their education and training; 54 percent moved to a job that better fit their long-term career goals; and 56 percent moved to a job with better working conditions
  • DACA recipients outpace the general population in terms of business creation, with 5 percent of respondents starting their own business after receiving DACA and 8 percent among respondents 25 years and older. Among the American public, the rate of starting businesses is 3.1 percent.
  • DACA has a positive and significant effect on wages, which are important not only for recipients and their families but also for tax revenues and economic growth at the local, state, and federal levels. The hourly wage of respondents increased by 69 percent since receiving DACA, from $10.29 per hour to $17.46 per hour (84 percent among respondents 25 years and older).
  • Purchasing power of DACA recipients continues to increase. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) reported purchasing their first car, which is important not only in terms of state revenue but also regarding the safety benefits of having more licensed and insured drivers on the roads. Additionally, the survey found that 16 percent of respondents purchased their first home after receiving DACA.
  • 45 percent of respondents are currently in school, with 72 percent pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. Because of DACA, 94 percent of respondents currently in school said they pursued educational opportunities they previously could not.

“At a time when the DACA program is in imminent danger, these survey results show the incredibly high stakes for immigrant youth and the entire nation if Trump kills this vital protection,” said Cristina Jimenez, executive director at UWD. “For us, this survey tells the story of immigrant youth, like my brother, who have gotten work, gone to school, supported their families and built their lives over the last five years. Keeping DACA should be a no brainer, but instead, white supremacists in the White House and in a few state capitals are unnecessarily putting all this progress at risk. If Trump and his administration decide to kill DACA, it’s because they are putting white supremacy before the good of the nation and immigrant families. Period. Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) must keep immigrant youth safe or they will have blood on their hands.”

Additionally, the survey found that at least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies—including Walmart, Apple, General Motors, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, and Wells Fargo, among others—employ DACA recipients. These companies account for $2.8 trillion in annual revenue.

“With each survey of DACA recipients, it has become more evident that when we as a country empower people through opportunities—rather than pouring so many of our resources into restricting life’s possibilities—society becomes richer, safer, more cohesive, and more productive,” said Patrick O’Shea, Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow at NILC and co-author of the report. “This data shows that inclusive policies are not idealistic or altruistic gestures. In very concrete terms, by providing a pathway for these young people to become more fully incorporated into their communities, DACA has produced higher levels of education, employment, entrepreneurship, and belonging, which are the conditions for a stronger, healthier society.”

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The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

NILC is exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families. Our mission is grounded in the belief that every American—and aspiring American—should have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential regardless of where they were born or how much money they have. Using our deep expertise in a wide range of issues that affect low-income immigrants’ lives, we work with communities in courtrooms and legislatures to help advance policies that create a more just and equitable society for everyone.

United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful nonpartisan network made up of 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states. UWD organizes and advocates for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. We seek to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth and believe that by empowering immigrant youth, we can advance the cause of the entire community—justice for all immigrants. You can find more about UWD online at www.unitedwedream.org.

Tom K. Wong is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California San Diego. He is also the director of the International Migration Studies Program minor. His research focuses on the politics of immigration, citizenship, and migrant “illegality.” As these issues have far-reaching implications, his work also explores the links between immigration, race and ethnicity, and the politics of identity.