Country of origin, type of public assistance, and patterns of welfare recipiency among U.S. immigrants and natives

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Objective. This article analyzes differences in the probability of receiving AFDC and SSI transfer payments between immigrant country-of-origin subgroups and natives. Methods. The article develops new estimates of AFDC and SSI recipiency using 1980 and 1990 U.S. Census data, decomposes interdecade changes in recipiency levels into size and rate components, and assesses the extent to which the observed nativity differences derive from nativity differences in sociodemographic and economic characteristics. Results. Over the decade, the overall immigrant/native differential in public assistance usage rises, primarily because of AFDC increases among immigrants and AFDC decreases among natives. The rise in immigrant AFDC recipiency, in turn, is attributable to increased sizes of immigrant country-of-origin groups with above-average rates of U.S. welfare recipiency, namely, Asian refugees and Mexicans and Central Americans, rather than from increased recipiency within these groups. When the influence of other factors on recipiency is controlled, however, the results show that immigrants are less likely than comparable natives to receive AFDC in both years. While this also holds true for SSI recipiency in 1979, in 1989 Asian refugees and, to a lesser extent, Mexican and Central American immigrants, are more likely than statistically equivalent natives to receive SSI. Conclusions. In comparison with results that are not disaggregated by country of origin and type of welfare received, these results imply that targeted programs rather than blanket immigration policy reforms might be needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-451
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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