From Undocumented to Lawfully Present: Do Changes to Legal Status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program Impact Educational Inequality among Immigrant Youth?
Caitlin Patler

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Davis

Primary Discipline

Immigrant legal status is a central axis of stratification in contemporary U.S. society and is linked to a range of educational inequities. For instance, Latino undocumented youth are far less likely to graduate high school and attend college than documented immigrants and native-born youth (Greenman and Hall 2013, Patler 2017). However, very few studies have tested the impacts of changes to legal status on educational inequalities, with a particular gap in research on the longitudinal processes and mechanisms through which these changes may occur. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provides a unique and unprecedented opportunity to analyze such changes. In June 2012, President Obama announced the DACA Program by executive order, granting a subset of undocumented youth temporary relief from deportation and access to work authorization and other related benefits. However, in September 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to phase out and eliminate the program. In this study, Caitlin Patler uses original longitudinal and mixed-methods data to address a series of questions about DACA’s role in influencing the educational disadvantages faced by undocumented children and youth. Importantly, Patler’s longitudinal study design allows her to assess how and why these impacts might vary over time, across individuals, and in response to changing local and national political environments?
About Caitlin Patler
Caitlin Patler is Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of California-Davis, where she is a Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Poverty Research, the Migration Research Cluster, the Social Control Cluster, and the Human Rights Program. Dr. Patler’s research focuses on socio-legal inequalities and their links to a range of educational, socioeconomic, and health outcomes. She is currently conducting mixed-methods research on: 1) the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, 2) immigration detention, deportation, and the intersections of immigration and criminal law, and 3) Legally vulnerable workers including noncitizens and individuals with criminal records. Dr. Patler’s work has appeared most recently in International Migration Review, Journal of Population Research, Social Problems, and Social Science & Medicine, and has been covered by the LA Times, Public Radio International, and other media outlets.

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