Panel Paper: Immigrant Legal Status and Health: Evidence from DACA

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Toronto (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Osea Giuntella and Jakub Lonsky, University of Pittsburgh

The United States has currently over 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Although a number of economic studies have looked at the labor market outcomes of these immigrants, little attention has been paid to their health trajectories. In 2012, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy that provides certain unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the country as minors with temporary reprieve from deportation and work authorization. We exploit this policy change and the discontinuities in the program eligibility criteria to evaluate the effects of immigrant legalization on the demand for health care services and on immigrant physical and mental health. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey (2000-2015), we find that DACA eligibility increases immigrants’ care utilization (doctor visits, check-ups etc.). We find no significant differences in immigrant physical health, but there is some evidence of significant effects on mental health: DACA-eligible immigrants are less likely to report depression symptoms (frequent feelings of frustration, sadness, insufficient sleep).