Stranger Things

Kevin Lewis

December 23, 2020

The Muslim Ban and Preterm Birth: Analysis of U.S. Vital Statistics Data from 2009 to 2018
Goleen Samari et al.
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming


Anti-immigrant stigma or xenophobia is increasingly pervasive globally. Racism is a determinant of adverse health outcomes, but the epidemiological implications of the recent wave of xenophobic policies have not been well studied. The 2017 travel ban on individuals from Muslim majority countries is an example of such policy efforts in the United States. Using the 2009 – 2018 National Center for Health Statistics period linked infant birth-death data, we used time series methods to compare the monthly odds of preterm births to women from travel ban countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) after the January 2017 travel ban to the number expected had the ban not been implemented. We estimated our counterfactual from the history of preterm birth among women born in countries included in the ban as well as trends in preterm birth among native-born non-Hispanic (NH) White women. Among the 18,945,795 singleton live births included in our study period (including 191,121 born to women from banned countries), the average monthly rate of births that were preterm birth was 8.5% (range: 6.8%, 10.6%) among women born in the countries affected by the ban and 8.6% (range: 7.7%, 9.8%) among native-born NH White women. Our results show an increase in the odds of preterm birth among infants born to women from travel ban countries in September 2017 and persisting through the cohort born in August 2018. The coefficient for exposed infants born in these months suggests that the odds of preterm birth increased by 6.8% among women from banned countries (p<0.001). Our results suggest that the first U.S. Executive Order (#13769) of the travel ban targeting individuals from Muslim majority countries may be associated with preterm births. We therefore conclude that structurally xenophobic and racist policies in the U.S. may have a harmful effect on birth outcomes and early life indicators of life-long health outcomes.

Comparing crime rates between undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, and native-born US citizens in Texas
Michael Light, Jingying He & Jason Robey
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 22 December 2020, Pages 32340-32347


We make use of uniquely comprehensive arrest data from the Texas Department of Public Safety to compare the criminality of undocumented immigrants to legal immigrants and native-born US citizens between 2012 and 2018. We find that undocumented immigrants have substantially lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants across a range of felony offenses. Relative to undocumented immigrants, US-born citizens are over 2 times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and over 4 times more likely to be arrested for property crimes. In addition, the proportion of arrests involving undocumented immigrants in Texas was relatively stable or decreasing over this period. The differences between US-born citizens and undocumented immigrants are robust to using alternative estimates of the broader undocumented population, alternate classifications of those counted as “undocumented” at arrest and substituting misdemeanors or convictions as measures of crime.

Undocumented Immigration and Terrorism: Is there a Connection?
Michael Light & Julia Thomas
Social Science Research, forthcoming


Unauthorized immigration, already a divisive and controversial subject in American society, was reframed as a grave national security threat after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Yet, despite substantial public, political and policy attention to the issue of undocumented immigration and terrorism, there has been relatively little empirical assessment of the relationship between unauthorized immigration flows and terrorist activity. We attempt to fill this gap by combining newly developed estimates of the unauthorized population, a novel use of sentencing and prosecutorial data to measure terrorism-related activity, and multiple data sources on the criminological, socioeconomic, and demographic context from all 50 states from 1990 to 2014. We then leverage this unique dataset to examine the longitudinal, macro-level relationship between undocumented immigration and various measures of terrorism. Results from fixed effects negative binomial models suggest that increased undocumented immigration over this period is not associated with terrorist attacks, radicalization, or terrorism prosecutions.

Latinx Boys and Juvenile Delinquency
Judy Van Wyk
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming


This study examines Latinx boys in the juvenile justice system and addresses acculturation theory to assess whether or not adjudicated foreign-born Latinx boys are more delinquent than others before adjudication, and whether or not these boys are a bigger burden on the juvenile justice system than others. The present study addresses data and methodological issues that plague the current research using the Ocean Tides Database containing multi-year (1975–2019) cross sectional data for 1,083 adjudicated boys. Multivariate analyses confirm that Latinx immigrant youth who are delinquent pose no greater threats to the American public either before or after adjudication than US-born citizens or other immigrants do. There is minimal support for acculturation theory in explaining behavioral differences between first and second-generation Latinx immigrants.

Media Persuasion through Slanted Language: Evidence from the Coverage of Immigration
Milena Djourelova
Universitat Pompeu Fabra Working Paper, September 2020


Can the language used by mass media to cover policy-relevant issues affect readers' policy preferences? I examine this question in the context of the US debate on immigration, exploiting an abrupt ban on the politically charged term "illegal immigrant" in dispatches distributed to media outlets by the Associated Press (AP) news wire. Using the text of AP's dispatches and about one million articles from 2200 outlets, I quantify outlets' prior reliance on AP-content and track their language and readers' views on immigration over time. I find that one standard deviation higher AP-intensity leads to a 10 to 14% decline in use of ``illegal immigrant" after the ban. This change in language has a tangible impact on readers' views on immigration. Following AP's ban, individuals exposed to outlets with 1 standard deviation higher AP-intensity show 0.7 percentage point lower support for restrictive immigration and border security policies. The effect is driven by less engaged readers, and does not transfer to views on issues other than immigration.

Sanctuary Policy Adoptions: Assessing the Effects of Ideology and Access to Labor and Housing Markets
Donald Vandegrift & Zachary Weyand
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming


Sanctuary policies are generally explained as the outcome of a conflict between desires for openness and restrictionist impulses. In this view, economic factors are exogenous forces that interact with ideological commitments. In contrast, we contend that some of these economic factors follow from ideological commitments and are therefore not exogenous forces. The economic factors follow from ideology because governments that choose to enact sanctuary policies also favor higher levels of land-use and labor-market regulation. We show that: (1) declines in the relative size of the non-citizen population pre-date the sanctuary policies and are confined to counties that ultimately adopt the sanctuary policies; and (2) reduced access to housing and labor markets predicts both sanctuary policy adoption and negative changes in the relative size of the non-citizen population. Thus, the outcomes from policy choices of left-of-center governments on land-use and labor-market regulation directly contravene the apparent purpose of the sanctuary policy.

Educational Mobility among the Children of Asian American Immigrants
Samuel Fishman
American Journal of Sociology, September 2020, Pages 260-317


Recent qualitative research argues that Asian Americans’ educational attainments are not predicated on their parents’ education, diverging from status attainment theory. Using data from two nationally representative studies, the analysis reveals extremely high levels of offspring education and no association with parents’ education among Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese immigrants. High adolescent educational expectations and parental pressure regardless of parental education partially account for the lack of association. In contrast, the education patterns of whites, blacks, Mexican Americans, and later-generation Asian Americans are generally consistent with status attainment theory. These results demonstrate that educational attainment among certain Asian American populations diverges from classic stratification models and indicate the need for more detailed explorations to further contextualize these patterns.

Do Politicians Ethnically Discriminate Against Hispanics? Evidence from a Field Experiment with State Legislative Offices
Michelangelo Landgrave
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Legislatures are meant to represent the populace but are also racialized institutions capable of perpetuating structural disadvantages against vulnerable populations. It is necessary to periodically test if vulnerable populations are provided with equal access to legislative services. In this manuscript I test for potential ethnic discrimination against Hispanics in US state legislatures. A problem with prior studies is that Hispanicity signals both an ethnic outgroup and non‐citizen stat. I overcome this challenge by comparing migrant Hispanics with migrant whites. I find that Hispanics and whites receive similar constituency service, as measured by reply rate and reply content, but I find that legislators are less likely to acquire information about Hispanic constituents. I advance the existing Hispanic literature by providing a clean comparison between Hispanics and whites with similar nativity backgrounds. I advance the study of discrimination by showcasing best practices for future studies of discrimination.

The Limits of Gaining Rights while Remaining Marginalized: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and the Psychological Wellbeing of Latina/o Undocumented Youth
Caitlin Patler, Erin Hamilton & Robin Savinar
Social Forces, forthcoming


Policies that expand the rights of marginalized groups provide an additional level of structural integration, but these changes do not always come with broad social acceptance or recognition. What happens when a legally marginalized group attains increased rights but not full political or social inclusion? In particular, what are the mental health implications of these transitions for impacted groups? We bring together theories of liminal legality and stress process to offer a framework for understanding how expansions in the legal rights of a highly politicized and vulnerable social group can be initially beneficial, but can attenuate due to renewed or new stress events, chronic stressors, and anticipatory stressors. We use the case of Latina/o immigrant youth who transitioned from undocumented legal status to temporarily protected status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Analyses of representative California statewide survey data from 2007 to 2018, combined with surveys and in-depth interviews with DACA recipients, suggest that without full social and structural inclusion, legal transitions that expand rights will produce short-term psychological benefits that do not hold up over time.

Allostatic Load Among U.S.- and Foreign-Born Whites, Blacks, and Latinx
Brent Langellier et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Methods: Data were from 26,818 adult participants in the 2005–2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a national repeated cross-sectional study. Allostatic load was measured based on 10 indicators of cardiovascular, metabolic, and immunologic risk. The analyses were conducted in March 2020.

Results: Allostatic load increased over time across all groups. The difference between the first and last survey cycle was greatest among U.S.-born Black women (from 2.74 in 2005–2006 to 3.02 in 2017–2018), U.S.-born Latino men (from 2.69 to 3.09) and foreign-born Latino men (from 2.58 to 2.87). Aging gradients in allostatic load were steepest among foreign-born Blacks of both genders and foreign-born Latina women and flattest among U.S.-born and foreign-born Whites.

Immigrant Integration in the United States: The Role of Adult English Language Training
Blake Heller & Kirsten Slungaard Mumma
Harvard Working Paper, November 2020


While current debates center on whether and how to admit immigrants to the United States, little attention has been paid to interventions designed to help them integrate after they arrive. Public adult education programs are the primary policy lever for building the language skills of the over 23 million adults with limited English proficiency in the United States. We leverage the enrollment lottery of a publicly funded adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program in Massachusetts to estimate the effects of English language training on voting behavior and employer-reported earnings. Attending ESOL classes more than doubles rates of voter registration and increases annual earnings by $2,400 (56%). We estimate that increased tax revenue from earnings gains fully pay for program costs over time, generating a 6% annual return for taxpayers. Our results demonstrate the social value of post-migration investments in the human capital of adult immigrants.

In-State Tuition Policies and the College Decisions of Undocumented Students: Evidence from Colorado
Michel Grosz & Annie Hines
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


We study the effects of a decrease in college tuition on college application and enrollment behavior. Specifically, we use student-level data to analyze a Colorado law that granted in-state tuition to undocumented students residing in Colorado. We find an increase in the credit hours and persistence of newly enrolled and likely undocumented students. We do not find evidence of changes in the persistence or credit hours of continuing students. Leveraging application-level data, we show suggestive evidence that the policy induced more students to enroll in college due to an increase in applications, rather than an increase in the acceptance rate or the enrollment rate.


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