SSI Eligibility and Participation among Elderly Naturalized Citizens and Noncitizens

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This article compares patterns and determinants of welfare eligibility and participation among naturalized citizens and noncitizens. Using the 1990 Public Use Microdata Sample, the research applies mutlilevel modeling and decomposition techniques to determine whether differences between naturalized and noncitizens in socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and the community-level structural environment can explain the naturalized/noncitizen welfare differential or whether the differences in welfare recipiency are a result of patterns of behavior or attitudes on the part of noncitizens that promote or lead to welfare recipiency. One quarter of elderly noncitizens versus 9% of naturalized citizens reported receiving SSI benefits in 1989. The primary reason for this difference is that noncitizens are more likely to be poor enough to qualify for benefits, but some of the explanation arises from the fact that eligible noncitizens are more likely to participate in SSI. In turn, elderly noncitizens are more likely to be poor and more likely to participate because of their disadvantaged economic and human capital profiles and poor returns to whatever human capital assets they do possess. The pattern of results provides scant evidence that elderly noncitizens exhibit tendencies, behaviors, or adjustment strategies that lead to high levels of welfare dependency, although some noncitizen subgroups may exhibit such tendencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-69
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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