The growth in noncitizen SSI caseloads 1979-1996: Aging versus new immigrant effects

Jennifer Van Hook, Frank D. Bean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives. The goal of this research is to assess the degree to which the recent growth in the rate of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) usage is concentrated among recently arrived elderly immigrants or among earlier arriving immigrants who have 'aged in place' and thus become eligible for benefits. Methods. We use 1980 and 1990 Census data and 1997 Current Population Survey (CPS) data to examine whether the growth in the elderly noncitizen caseload during the 1980s and 1990s may be attributed to increases in rates of receipt among newly arrived elderly immigrants, to increases in rates of receipt among 'settled' immigrants who have aged into categories that allow them to obtain SSI benefits, or to increases in the number of persons in each of these groups. Results. We find that the major contribution to the growth in the noncitizen elderly SSI caseload has been the significant increase in the rate of receipt among those who have lived in the United States for more than 10 years (a smaller increase occurred among recent arrivals). This factor accounts for about half of the total growth in the caseload and cannot be explained by increases in poverty among noncitizens. Discussion. The idea that the availability of SSI for elderly immigrants has acted as a magnet for poor elderly immigrants, thereby accounting for the growth in the elderly immigrant SSI caseloads during the 1980s and 1990s, does not receive much support in the findings of this research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S16-S23
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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