Study: DACA for DREAMers Boosts U.S. Economy

daca student

A new study finds that undocumented young people who received protections under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have made significant strides over the last four years. According to the study “DACA has had a positive impact, not just for recipients but also for the American economy more generally.” With nearly three-quarters of a million beneficiaries of the program, this small program has been a major success.

According to the report:

The data illustrate that DACA recipients are making significant contributions to the economy by buying cars and first homes, which translate into more revenue for states and localities in the form of sales and property taxes. Some are even using their entrepreneurial talents to help create new jobs and further spur economic growth by starting their own businesses.

The positive wage effect of DACA is also significant. The data show that DACA increased recipients’ average hourly wages by 42 percent. Given that higher wages translate into higher tax revenue and economic growth, these findings reinforce the fact that DACA benefits all Americans. Moreover, a full 95 percent of survey respondents are currently employed or enrolled in school. Consistent with the 2015 survey, the data indicate that many DACA recipients are getting better and higher-paying jobs because of DACA. Many are pursuing educational opportunities that were previously unavailable to them. 

One of the most important impacts has been on allowing those with DACA to move into jobs that better use their talents:

[A]fter receiving DACA, 63 percent of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay; 49 percent moved to a job that “better fits my education and training”; and 48 percent moved to a job with better working conditions. These figures are largely consistent with previous findings from the 2015 survey and show that the temporary work authorization that comes with DACA has helped to unlock recipients’ economic potential.

The 2016 survey also found that 6 percent of respondents started their own business after receiving DACA. This rate of business starts is higher than that of both the American public as a whole—at 3.1 percent—and the entire immigrant population—at 3.6 percent.

The ability to change jobs means that wages have gone up, says the study:

DACA is having a positive and significant effect on wages: The average hourly wages of respondents increased by 42 percent since receiving DACA, rising from $9.83 per hour to $13.96 per hour.

DACA has also helped recipients stay in school. According to the report:

Overall, 46 percent of respondents are currently in school. Of these individuals, a full 83 percent are also working, which is perhaps reflective of the limited options for in-state tuition and financial aid that are available to DACA recipients. Among those who are currently in school:

  • 4 percent are pursuing a high school or GED diploma.
  • 20 percent are pursuing an associate degree.
  • 4 percent are pursuing a trade, technical, or vocational certificate.
  • 70 percent are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Importantly, among those who are currently in school, a robust 92 percent said that because of DACA, “I pursued educational opportunities that I previously could not.”

Previous articleImmigration Set to be Topic of Final Presidential Debate
Next articleMangano and Venditto Arrests Bring Back Memories of Anti-Immigrant Crusade
Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.