Mixed-status immigrant families, where one or more members are undocumented and all other members are either US citizens or have lawful immigration status, are in a difficult predicament. Undocumented family members often have limited economic opportunities because they lack work authorization, are restricted from accessing federal safety net programs, and are under constant threat of immigration enforcement. Immigrant families may fear enrolling their children in safety net programs, even when children may be eligible, because of immigration-related concerns. Yet, limited data on the undocumented population in the US has made it difficult to assess the level of material hardships mixed-status families experience.
We examine data from the Urban Institute’s December 2021 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey, a nationally representative survey of adults ages 18 to 64, to assess material hardships in the previous year among adults in mixed-status families, adults in families with permanent residents, adults in families with naturalized citizens, and adults in all-US-born families.
Our findings show the following:
- Adults in mixed-status families were more likely than adults in families with other immigration statuses and adults in all-US-born families to report material hardships. Nearly half of adults in mixed-status families reported food insecurity, a share much higher than that for adults in other families.
- Adults in mixed-status families were much more likely than those in other families to have a child in the family and to have low family incomes.
Our findings support previous research on how immigration policies designed to limit access to employment and safety net supports for undocumented individuals can affect other members of their family. If a goal of policymakers is to reduce hardships among low-income families and improve equitable access to safety net programs and economic opportunity, then the unique circumstances of mixed-status families, which can include members eligible for these programs, must be considered.