HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

DACA and the Health Benefits of a “Shot at Upward Mobility”.

Posted on | April 6, 2018 | No Comments

Mike Magee

A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, reported out in The Atlantic, began with the health outcomes in DACA children but ended with thoughts on why a teenage girl in Mississippi is 15 times more likely to give birth than her counterpart in Switzerland.

DACA is a favorite topic of President Trump along with claims of immigrant hordes and the scourges of NAFTA. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an Obama initiative that shielded 1.3 million children who arrived initially with their illegal immigrant parents, and who then stayed and worked legally in the U.S. The legislation allowed registration and subsequent protection from deportation for renewable 2-year periods.

The success of the program was highly dependent on these vulnerable individuals trusting their government, and believing it would not subsequently turn on them once they came in from the shadows and exposed themselves thru registration. As is clear now, that is exactly what Trump attempted to do. Up till now court rulings have checked his predatory instincts.

The NBER paper makes the point that the elimination of DACA would not only be a remarkably callous and unethical move, but it would also have significant negative health consequences.

It turns out that DACA kids have been doing quite well since Obama set them free. High school graduation (a requirement of DACA) has increased 15%, college attendance is up 25%, and teen births have declined 45%.

What’s most interesting about these results is what they tell us about the relationship between optimism and health outcomes. These authors and others in the field believe that hope for the future ignites course corrections in teens. They see the future though different glasses. Their education, work/study jobs, drivers licenses, and lower stress, combined with the promise of higher wages in the future, lead to less high-risk behavior in the present.

Multiple prior studies have suggested that the option of pregnancy for a teen is often an active choice when other options for a promising future are removed. Teen pregnancies and births outside of marriage track with advancing income inequality.

Mississippi is Mississippi and not Switzerland when it comes to life expectancy for mothers and babies as much because of hopelessness as anything else. There is a price to be paid each day, for DACA kids and each and every American, for a culture absent universality and solidarity. Health breeds wider choices and better futures. #2018 elections.

 

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