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Spotlight on the DACA-Eligible Population

In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which grants law-abiding undocumented youth a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation and the ability to work in the United States if they are in, or have graduated from, high school.

Although there are currently over 800,000 enrolled in DACA, our analysis of 2013–2015 American Community Survey (ACS) data finds that there are over 1.3 million DACA-eligible people in the United States. Several studies have shown that granting DACA has significant economic benefits, both for DACA holders and the U.S. economy in general. However, significant barriers, including cost, awareness of the policy, and a fear of providing information to the federal government, all contribute to the disparity between the DACA-eligible and DACA-holding population.

Statistics on the DACA-eligible population in the United States:


  • The vast majority of the DACA-eligible population, 81.4 percent, have graduated from high school and taken a college course.
  • Nearly 17 percent have gone to college and earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • More than 1 in 10 only speak English and over 90 percent speak English well or better.
  • The DACA-eligible population is diverse, with countries like South Korea, Canada, Poland, India, and Mexico represented.
  • A vast majority of DACA-eligible people speak another language in addition to English, including Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and French.


  • A majority of DACA-eligible people—almost 59 percent—live in just 5 states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.

Labor Market

  • Despite the rhetoric claiming undocumented youths are a drain on the U.S. economy, 90 percent of the DACA-eligible population 16 years old and older are employed.
    • Of these, 4.5 percent are entrepreneurs, compared to only 3.9 percent of the corresponding U.S.-born population ages 16 to 34.
    • In 2015, DACA-eligible entrepreneurs had a total business income of $658.7 million, a significant boost to local economies across the country.
  • DACA-eligible people contribute to a wide variety of industries, such as construction, helping to build American homes and businesses; child care; and restaurants and grocery stores across the United States.
  • The average income for a DACA-eligible individual is just $17,300 per year. This lower income reflects their youth and legal status. However, once granted access to an education, we find that DACA-eligible people with at least a college degree see a dramatic increase in their incomes, making $30,000 per year on average.
  • College-educated DACA-eligible people fill crucial roles in the U.S. economy, including accounting, nursing, and teaching.

Income, Tax Contributions, and Spending Power

  • DACA-eligible population earns almost $19.9 billion in total income annually. They contribute more than $1.4 billion in federal taxes and more than $1.6 billion in state and local taxes in the United States. They also hold significant economic clout after taxes, with almost $16.8 billion in spending power.
  • DACA-eligible population also contributes almost $2.0 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund and almost $470 million to the Medicare fund, supporting critical social welfare benefits for all Americans.

See our analysis of the contributions of the DACA-Eligible population in key states here.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…