Center for Immigration Studies Welfare Programs

Published:  

The Center for Immigration Studies released a new study showing that immigrant (legal and illegal) households take access more welfare programs compared to native households. The study is based on the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which provides the most accurate picture of welfare utilization.

This study found that:

• In 2012, 51 percent of households headed by an immigrant (legal or illegal) reported that they used at least one welfare program during the year, compared to 30 percent of native households.

• Welfare use is high for both new arrivals and long-time residents. Of households headed by immigrants who have been in the country for more than two decades, 48 percent access welfare.

• No single program explains immigrants' higher overall welfare use. Immigrant households have much higher use of food programs (40 percent vs. 22 percent for natives) and Medicaid (42 percent vs. 23 percent). Immigrant use of cash programs is somewhat higher than natives (12 percent vs. 10 percent) and immigrant use of housing programs is similar to natives.

• The large share of immigrants with low levels of education and resulting low incomes partly explains their high use rates. In 2012, 76 percent of households headed by an immigrant who had not graduated high school used one or more welfare programs, as did 63 percent of households headed by an immigrant with only a high school education.

• The high rates of immigrant welfare use are not entirely explained by their lower education levels. Households headed by college-educated immigrants have significantly higher welfare use than households headed by college-educated natives — 26 percent vs. 13 percent.

The report shows that the majority of immigrant households using welfare are headed by legal immigrants. Yet, illegal immigrants can qualify to receive welfare benefits on behalf of their U.S. born children, who are granted U.S. citizenship at birth.

Steven Camarota the Center's Director of Research and the report’s author said, “If immigration is supposed to benefit the country, then immigrant welfare use should be much lower than native use…The low-skill level of many immigrants means that although most work, many also access welfare programs. If we continue to allow large numbers of less-educated immigrants to settle in the country, then immigrant welfare use will remain high."

You can view the full CIS report here:
http://cis.org/Welfare-Use-Immigrant-Native-Households

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Updated: Wed, Oct 14th 2015 @ 4:06pm EDT