“Hundreds of thousands of these young people still live day to day facing the overwhelming uncertainty around their future in a country they have called home for decades.”
Eleven years after the Obama Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, DACA recipients have grown in many ways: youth who started as mostly high school and college students are now building careers and establishing families.
When President Obama announced the DACA policy in 2012, he described prospective DACA recipients as “young people who study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, are friends with our kids, and pledge allegiance to our flag.” For years, elected officials and media outlets highlighted DACA recipients’ youth and the fact that they’d been educated alongside their U.S. citizen peers. Today, DACA recipients are no longer children; the protections afforded by the policy have helped them to build their lives in the U.S., graduate from school, grow their careers, and establish their own families. But even while DACA recipients have grown and changed, the DACA policy has not kept up, and it has been less effective over time because of court challenges resulting in closures of the policy for new applicants. Today, hundreds of thousands of these young people still live day to day facing the overwhelming uncertainty around their future in a country they have called home for decades.
When the DACA policy launched, DACA recipients were generally younger people who were in high school, or who were just beginning their college education or their careers. According to FWD.us estimates, the average age of DACA recipients in 2012 was 21 years.1 At that time, nearly half (45%) of approved applicants were enrolled in high school or college, while a slight majority (60%) participated in the labor force. For this first group, only slightly more than two-thirds (77%) had graduated from high school, and roughly a third (35%) had attained some college education. As many were in school or just beginning careers, DACA recipients earned a median income of only $4,000 per year.
Eleven years later, DACA’s beneficiaries have built families and careers in the U.S.
Initial DACA recipients in 2012 with active DACA status in 2023, by year
|in labor force||60%||86%|
|finished high school||77%||99%|
|some college education||35%||48%|