Mass Deportations Would Impoverish US Families and Create Immense Social Costs

by Robert Warren, Donald Kerwin


Executive Summary

This paper provides a statistical portrait of the US undocumented population, with an emphasis on the social and economic condition of mixed-status households – that is, households that contain a US citizen and an undocumented resident. It is based primarily on data compiled by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS). Major findings include the following:

  • There were 3.3 million mixed-status households in the United States in 2014.
  • 6.6 million US-born citizens share 3 million households with undocumented residents (mostly their parents).  Of these US-born citizens, 5.7 million are children (under age 18).
  • 2.9 million undocumented residents were 14 years old or younger when they were brought to the United States.
  • Three-quarters of a million undocumented residents are self-employed, having created their own jobs and in the process, creating jobs for many others.
  • A total of 1.3 million, or 13 percent of the undocumented over age 18, have college degrees.
  • Of those with college degrees, two-thirds, or 855,000, have degrees in four fields: engineering, business, communications, and social sciences.
  • Six million undocumented residents, or 55 percent of the total, speak English well, very well, or only English.
  • The unemployment rate for the undocumented was 6.6 percent, the same as the national rate in January 2014.[1]
  • Seventy-three percent had incomes at or above the poverty level.
  • Sixty-two percent have lived in the United States for 10 years or more.
  • Their median household income was $41,000, about $12,700 lower than the national figure of $53,700 in 2014 (US Census Bureau 2015).

Based on this profile, a massive deportation program can be expected to have the following major consequences:

  • Removing undocumented residents from mixed-status households would reduce median household income from $41,300 to $22,000, a drop of $19,300, or 47 percent, which would plunge millions of US families into poverty.
  • If just one-third of the US-born children of undocumented residents remained in the United States following a mass deportation program, which is a very low estimate, the cost of raising those children through their minority would total $118 billion.
  • The nation’s housing market would be jeopardized because a high percentage of the 2.4 million mortgages held by households with undocumented immigrants would be in peril.
  • Gross domestic product (GDP) would be reduced by 1.4 percent in the first year, and cumulative GDP would be reduced by $4.7 trillion over 10 years.

CMS derived its population estimates for 2014 using a series of statistical procedures that involved the analysis of data collected by the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The privacy of all respondents in the survey is legally mandated, and, for the reasons listed in the Appendix, the identity of undocumented residents cannot be derived from the data. A detailed description of the methodology used to develop the estimates is available at the CMS website.[2]

[1] Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, National Monthly Employment Update (data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/national-employment-monthly-update.aspx.

[2] Go to http://data.cmsny.org/about.html.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.14240/jmhs.v5i1.71


ISSN 2330-2488 (Online), 2331-5024 (Print)  © 2017 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York

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