More Children Growing Up With Parents Behind Bars

One in 42 Latino children has a parent in prison.

November 27, 2012, 11:01 AM

Nov. 27, 2012— -- The number of children with parents behind bars in the United States is growing. And a Latino child is more than twice as likely to have an incarcerated parent as a white child.

An infographic created by sociologist Becky Pettit in her new book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress illustrates a five-fold increase in the number of children with parents behind bars from 1980 to 2005.

While interpreting the graph, it's important to keep in mind that the Hispanic population has grown much faster than the white and black populations since 1980, meaning there are simply more Latino children and parents in the U.S. However, taken as a percentage, Latino children are still more much more likely than white children to grow up with their parents behind bars. One in 42 Latino children has a parent in prison, compared to 1 in 111 white children, according to a 2009 report from The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group, which used data from the U.S. Department of Justice. And, when it comes to black children, one in 15 have a parent in prison.

But it's not just incarceration that leaves Hispanic children without parents in the U.S. -- deportations have taken parents away from thousands of children in the U.S. in recent years. About 22 percent of all unauthorized immigrants deported in the first half of 2011 -- 46,486 people --were parents of U.S.-born children, according to ICE's estimates. In some instances, parents decide to bring children back with them to their home countries, but in many others, parents leave them in the U.S. with relatives, neighbors, or friends. An estimated 5,100 children are currently in U.S. foster homes due to the deportation of their parents, according to the 2011 "Shattered Families" report by the Applied Research Center, an advocacy organization.

One in every one hundred adults in the U.S. is behind bars, and more than two-thirds are non-white, according to a 2008 Pew study. The Sentencing Project report found that children who grow up with parents in prison are more likely to "drop out of school, engage in delinquency, and subsequently be incarcerated themselves."

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