Searching for the Family Legal Status of Mexican-Origin Children: A Primer on Different Measurement Strategies

Sal Oropesa, Pennsylvania State University
Nancy S. Landale, Pennsylvania State University
Marianne M. Hillemeier, Pennsylvania State University

Interest in the consequences of family legal status for children has grown in response to immigration-related changes in the ethnic composition of American society. However, only a few population-based empirical studies devote attention to family legal status due to data limitations. Using restricted data from the California Health Interview Survey (2009), this study identifies and evaluates strategies for measuring this important determinant of life chances. The latter is accomplished with an analysis that demonstrates the sensitivity of estimates of the size of status-specific segments of the Mexican-origin child population and their risks of living in poverty to measurement decisions. The results demonstrate that estimates are sensitive to how family legal status is measured. Various “combinatorial” strategies are shown to be unnecessarily reductionist and to rely on untenable assumptions that can be avoided with more parsimonious approaches.

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Presented in Session 211: Measurement Issues and Innovations in Family Research