Multidimensional poverty and children's behavioral trajectories in immigrant families: Beating the odds?

Liwei Zhang, Wen Jui Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite a large body of scholarship examining the relation between poverty and child behavioral outcomes, little is known about how such a relation may differ when poverty is viewed through a multidimensional lens. In addition, the evidence is mixed on the behavioral well-being of children of immigrants relative to their counterparts with U.S.-born parents under various poverty conditions. Using data from the ECLS-K (N ≈ 16,660), this study examines the relation among three dimensions of poverty—depth, volatility, and duration—and internalizing and externalizing behavioral trajectories from kindergarten through eighth grade, paying particular attention to children of immigrants with diverse racial-ethnic backgrounds. Growth-curve analysis results indicate that under the same poverty conditions, children of immigrants received more favorable ratings by teachers on internalizing and externalizing behaviors, but self-reported worse internalizing scores than children with U.S.-born parents. Among children of immigrants, Black and Hispanic children had relatively worse teacher-reported externalizing behaviors, while Hispanic and Asian children reported unfavorable internalizing behaviors. The results shed light on the intersectional forces of poverty, immigration, and race-ethnicity in shaping children's behavioral trajectories, confirming aspects of the immigrant risk and immigrant paradox stories. The discrepancy between teacher- and youth-reported outcomes highlights the importance of using multiple informants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106534
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • ECLS-K
  • Immigrant
  • Internalizing and externalizing behaviors
  • Multidimensional poverty
  • Race-ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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