Panel Paper: Does Food Insecurity Systematically Increase Among Children of Immigrant Parents? Exploring Variation in the Persistence of Food Insecurity

Thursday, November 6, 2014 : 1:00 PM
Acoma (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Irma Arteaga, Stephanie Potochnick and Sarah Parsons, University of Missouri
According to the Pew Center, by 1990 the foreign born population represented 7.9 percent (19.8 million individuals), by 2000 their share rose to 11.1 percent (31.1 million individuals) and by 2011 immigrants comprised 13.0 percent of the population (40.3 million). Previous research indicates that children with immigrant parents have a greater risk of food insecurity than those with native-born parents. President Obama emphasized during his 2008 presidential campaign an increased policy interest on reducing food insecurity among children. Since taking office, the president, USDA and other organizations have worked on key strategies to ending childhood hunger by 2015.

            Since the late 1990s, significant changes in the US have altered the familial and school supports of both immigrants and non that could have strong repercussions on food security. Evidence suggests that compared to previous decades families today, especially immigrants, must work longer hours and acquire more educational skills in order to prevent their families from falling into poverty. Moreover, with welfare reform families have fewer social safety net support systems to protect them from hardships. Schools also face increased strain with the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation, and the concurrent diversification of the student body sparked in part by the increase in English language learners.   In the past, schools have served as a first line of defense against child hunger (via the school lunch program), but with the increased focus on testing and changing needs of students schools may be less effective at combating hunger.

This study examines whether children of immigrant parents attending Kindergarten today are actually less food secure and healthier compared to previous cohorts.  Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K 1998, ECLS-B 2001 and ECLS-K 2011), we use multivariate analysis and school fixed effect models to examine how children food insecurity of immigrant parents changed during the late 1990s and the early 2000s. We also assess whether variation in food insecurity patterns is related to observed child, parental and home characteristics, as well as children’s kindergarten experiences and practices.  We are particularly interested in examining whether participation in the school lunch program reduces food insecurity and how these effects vary by cohorts.

            A key contribution of this paper is that we can leverage recently available data (ECLS-K, 2011) to compare patterns of food insecurity among cohorts of children who attended kindergarten in 1998, 2006 and 2011, exploring how changes in food insecurity for kindergarteners differ over a time period during which we observed a rapid change on access and environment of kindergarten schooling. In addition to that, these datasets allow analyzing heterogeneity of immigrants. We will conduct subgroup analysis by area of residence, child gender, years of mothers living in the US and parental socio-economic status.