IMMIGRANTS' HUMAN CAPITAL DECISIONS IN RESPONSE TO DACA
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provided temporary work authorization and deferred deportation orders for undocumented, high-school-educated youth. This policy coincidingly altered the returns to human capital among the eligible youth, allowing for a test of a prediction in standard human capital models. I use student-level data containing migrant students' year-of-arrival, allowing me to use age- and year-of-arrival cutoffs to determine DACA-eligibility in otherwise identical migrant high school students. I then estimate the causal impact of DACA eligibility on student outcomes. I find sharp and persistent gains in student achievement immediately, and I also find persistent gains in college enrollment rates mostly explained by increases in four-year college enrollment. Zooming into students’ academic profile in high school, I find that DACA-eligible students are less likely to fail courses, more likely to earn As, and some evidence that they take more AP courses. The evidence suggests that students responded to DACA-induced changes in the returns to education right away, forging a path into higher education that would have otherwise not been likely. More broadly, these findings provide evidence that national-level immigration policies like DACA can substantially raise the human capital of a large population of youth and that uncertainties about legal status contribute to educational gaps between migrants and natives in Los Angeles.