Kenneth Edison, Editor-in-Chief
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The systemic inequality in education for students with undocumented parents was the focus of Rubio Goldsmith’s lecture on Wednesday, Sept. 20 in Founder’s Lounge.
Goldsmith is an associate professor of sociology at Texas A&M University, and the founding director of the Latino/a and Mexican American Studies Program. Goldsmith’s studies examined the disadvantage that many Mexican students face when they come from an undocumented family.
One of the core tenets of Goldsmith’s study found a clear link between economic status and educational performance.
“If you’re documented, you have access to so many more economic resources than if you aren’t documented. So just for that reason, documented children will perform better in school,” he said. “How come documented children do better in school? It can go from the top sort of thing, which is that you have a really nice computer to do your schoolwork on. Or it could be the bottom sort of thing like whether or not you’re getting three meals a day.”
Goldsmith also spoke on the idea of education as a means of economic pay off. He argued that most students view education as a means to economic advancement in the future. However, for the undocumented, education is not viewed the same way.
“The more you think your education is going to pay off, the more you are going to invest in it. When I say invest in it I mean go to school longer, try harder, study more,” he said. “In Mexico, when kids become about 12, 13, 14 years old they often favor going to the United States to get a job rather than staying in school. Will extra schooling in Mexico help them to get a job when they come to the United States? If they’re undocumented you’re most likely going to get a job as a construction worker or a house cleaner whether you have six years of education or ten years of education.”
For children born in the United States, Goldsmith found that having documented parents directly affects the average amount of education that students will receive. He found that having undocumented parents equates to losing approximately 1.5 years of education on average. Overall, American children with undocumented parents usually only complete eight-and-a-half years of education overall.
Goldsmith concluded by explaining DACA and what it meant for the undocumented people in the United States.
“[DACA] allows people to work and get jobs in the United States as if they had a green card. That program is estimated to be helping about 800,000 people right now,” he said. “Another program that Obama tied to enact was deferred action for undocumented parents of American citizens but it was struck down by some courts in Texas. But these were the only programs ever put forward by the federal government to kind of regularize people’s status and ability to work.”