Journal Issue: Immigrant Children Volume 21 Number 1 Spring 2011
Children with immigrant parents are a rapidly growing part of the U.S. child population, and they are here to stay. Their health and development, educational attainment, and future social and economic integration will play a defining role in the nation's future. Immigrant families have many strengths—in particular, high levels of marriage and commitment to family life—that clearly benefit their children and offset to some extent potential negative impacts of other risk factors. But despite their strengths, these families are vulnerable because of the separations and economic insecurities inherent in the migration process, the stresses of forging a new life in the United States, and the lack of an explicit U.S. immigrant integration policy.90 In facing these challenges, immigrant families reshape and adapt themselves through extended-family living arrangements, social support networks of kin and non-kin, and family networks that extend beyond national boundaries.
Quite apart from immigration, children's living arrangements in the United States have been changing rapidly in response to a sharp rise over the past several decades in nonmarital births, cohabitation, and marital dissolution. Despite rising rates of female employment, the growth of single parenthood resulting from these changes has led to a striking inequality in children's life chances, with children in two-parent families having access to far more economic resources and parental time than children in families with only one, or, even worse, no parent. Differences in the living arrangements of children of immigrants by generational status suggest that as immigrant families spend more time in the United States, their family patterns progressively mirror those of the general population. The nation should pay special heed to how this aspect of immigrants' Americanization heightens the vulnerability of their children.