Taking on adult roles encourages children of Latinx immigrants to participate in political activity

Andrew Alvarez

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ATLANTA - According to University of Georgia researcher Roberto Carlos, children of Latinx immigrants who take on adult responsibilities have higher levels of political activity than those who don’t.

According to his research, when children of Latinx immigrants take on adult roles due to their parents’ long work hours, immigrant status, or language deficiencies, they develop noncognitive skills associated with higher rates of political participation.

Previous research has described the noncognitive skills acquired during puberty that are positively associated with increased voter turnout. General self-efficacy, even-temperedness, hard work, patience, altruism, and follow-through are examples of these skills.

In his paper, published in the American Political Science Review, Carlos argued that taking on adult responsibilities — specifically language brokering — helps the children of Latinx immigrants develop the noncognitive skills associated with higher rates of political participation. Language brokering, which occurs when children translate or interpret for parents or other family members, runs the complete range from daily interactions such as grocery shopping to high-stakes situations such as hospital visits or interactions regarding immigration status.

The Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS), conducted with high school sophomores from 2002 to 2012, investigated the frequency of household responsibilities. The findings revealed that children assigned with household chores were 5% to 6% more likely to vote in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections and 8% more likely to vote in local and midterm elections than children who did not take on any chores.

Previous research on the effect of household chore assignment suggests that it is likely weighted along racial and social class lines as children of color and children who live in low socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have to step up to help their parents.

The most pronounced differences were found in household chore assignments’ effect by class. Household chore assignment had no impact on those who had at least one parent with a college diploma. Those whose parents did not have a college degree, on the other hand, were 6% to 8% percent more likely to vote in midterm or local elections, as well as the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, compared with those students who did not take on any chores.

Carlos commented that these findings provide new understandings into how the cycle of generational political inequality is bested in unexpected ways. If these kids can be relied on at a young age to contribute, one shouldn’t be surprised that they contribute to society through these participatory avenues when they grow older.

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