Does Legal Status Matter for Educational Choices? Evidence from Immigrant Teenagers

American Law and Economics Review, Forthcoming

53 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2017 Last revised: 5 May 2018

See all articles by Zachary D. Liscow

Zachary D. Liscow

Yale University - Law School

William A Woolston

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 27, 2018

Abstract

Of the estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 1.1 million are children. Due to differential treatment in the labor market, teenage undocumented immigrants face low returns to schooling. To measure the effect of legal status on the educational choices of Hispanic teenagers, we compare siblings who differ in their legal status due to their birth country. We find that teenagers who were born in Mexico are 2.7 percentage points more likely to be out of school than their U.S.-born siblings. Alternative explanations, such as differences in prenatal or childhood environment, appear largely unable to explain this result, suggesting that legal status has a significant impact on schooling decisions. After accounting for these alternative explanations to the extent possible and using proxies for legal status in U.S. Census, our results suggest that being undocumented roughly doubles high school students' dropout rate relative to their U.S.-born siblings, with substantial wage decreases implied by back-of-the-envelope calculations.

Keywords: Demand for schooling, human capital, immigration

JEL Classification: I21, I28, J61, F22

Suggested Citation

Liscow, Zachary D. and Woolston, William A, Does Legal Status Matter for Educational Choices? Evidence from Immigrant Teenagers (April 27, 2018). American Law and Economics Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3083026 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3083026

Zachary D. Liscow (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

127 Wall St.
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

William A Woolston

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

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