Health Impacts of Social Policies to Expand Economic Opportunity in Underserved Populations

Project Summary: 

The investigators are examining the causal physical and mental health effects of three types of economic opportunity policies targeted predominantly toward underserved populations: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, affirmative action bans, and small business set-asides. Researchers will also assess the importance of economic mediators by examining impacts of these policies on employment, education, and income. Resulting evidence will provide insight into how social sector policies influence health behaviors and outcomes, and inform federal, state and local policy direction.


Health: Self-reported physical and mental health; smoking, alcohol, and drug use behaviors; body mass index

Other: Income, employment, education, insurance, future economic expectations


Quasi-experimental approach combining difference-in-difference and regression discontinuity designs to estimate the causal effects of policies on specified health outcomes.


DACA-eligible individuals experienced a reduction in psychological distress compared with DACA-ineligible individuals and were less likely to meet screening criteria for moderate or worse psychological distress. However, compared with people ineligible for DACA, the introduction of DACA was associated with no significant change among DACA-eligible individuals in terms of self-reported overall health  or the likelihood of reporting poor or fair health.

Some health risk behaviors increased among underrepresented minority adolescents after exposure to state-level college affirmative action bans. Specifically, cigarette smoking in the past 30 days among underrepresented minority 11th-12th graders increased by 3.8 percentage points after exposure to an affirmative action ban.