Undocumented Youth and Local Contours of Inequality

  • Roberto G. GonzalesEmail author
  • Edelina M. Burciaga
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


About 2.1 million undocumented immigrants are members of the 1.5-generation, meaning they arrived in the United States as children and remain without legal permission. The experiences of the undocumented 1.5-generation have captured the sociological imagination, and research about undocumented immigrant youth is a burgeoning and exciting field of study. This research captures both the challenges that immigrant youth face growing up undocumented in the United States, and also how they are responding to these challenges. This chapter draws from two different studies examining the experiences of undocumented youth in the United States, in order to understand this group’s conflicting experiences of illegality and belonging. The data presented in this chapter suggests that there are two key axes of educational stratification within the undocumented youth community. The first is among those who complete high school and attend college vs those who are considered early exiters, young people who leave K–12 schools at or before high school graduation. Relatedly, the second axis of stratification is connected to where undocumented youth grow up and live. Ultimately, we show that as undocumented young people make critical transitions from childhood to adolescence and young adulthood, their immigration status is a central impediment to their hopes and dreams. Almost as consequential, the resources and practices of their school districts and the policies of their states condition their post high school lives.


Undocumented youth Educational pathways Qualitative research DACA State polices 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.University of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

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