Spotlight on the DACA-Eligible Population


This post was updated February 8th, 2018.

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.

Top 10 Industries for all Employed DACA-Eligible

Industry Total Number
Restaurants and other food services 155,525
Construction 84,323
Grocery stores 24,027
Hospitals 17,611
Landscaping services 16,758
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 16,133
Clothing stores 15,187
Traveler accommodation 15,056
Department stores and discount stores 13,744
Services to buildings and dwellings 13,544

Top 10 Occupations for All Employed DACA-Eligible

Occupation Total Number
Cashiers 54,038
Waiters and waitresses 40,477
Chefs and cooks 38,187
Retail salespersons 31,391
Construction laborers 27,022
Customer service representatives 22,536
Freight and stock laborers 18,768
Grounds maintenance workers 17,132
First-line supervisors of sales workers 15,972
Janitors and building cleaners 14,520

Top 10 Occupations for Employed, College-Educated DACA-Eligible

Occupation Total Number
Accountants and auditors 4,129
Registered nurses 3,404
Postsecondary teachers 3,022
Managers, nec (including postmasters) 2,981
Elementary and middle school teachers 2,872
Software developers 2,817
Computer scientists and systems analyst 2,174
Customer service representatives 2,170
Waiters and waitresses 2,125
Designers 2,015

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 to federal taxes and more than $1.6 billion to 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 Social Security taxes and almost $470 million to Medicare taxes, supporting critical social welfare benefits for all Americans.

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

About Us

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…