Reduced health care utilization among young children of immigrants after Donald Trump’s election and proposed public charge rule


Widespread fear among immigrants from hostile 2016 presidential campaign rhetoric decreased social and health care service enrollment (chilling effect). Health care utilization effects among immigrant families with young children are unknown. We examined whether former President Trump’s election had chilling effects on well-child visit (WCV) schedule adherence, hospitalizations, and emergency department (ED) visits among children of immigrant vs US-born mothers in 3 US cities. Cross-sectional surveys of children <4 years receiving care in hospitals were linked to 2015–2018 electronic health records. We applied difference-in-difference analysis with a 12-month pre/post-election study period. Trump’s election was associated with a 5-percentage-point decrease (−0.05; 95% CI: −0.08, −0.02) in WCV adherence for children of immigrant vs US-born mothers with no difference in hospitalizations or ED visits. Secondary analyses extending the treatment period to a leaked draft of proposed changes to public charge rules also showed significantly decreased WCV adherence among children of immigrant vs US-born mothers. Findings indicate likely missed opportunities for American Academy of Pediatrics–recommended early childhood vaccinations, health and developmental screenings, and family support. Policies and rhetoric promoting immigrant inclusion create a more just and equitable society for all US children.