Elderly Immigrants on Welfare
The difference between immigrants' and natives' use of welfare programs is concentrated among the elderly. This paper examines the determinants of immigrants' welfare participation decisions to evaluate the consequences of changes in immigration and welfare policy. An important finding for immigration policy is that immigrants who arrive after age 55 are significantly more likely to use welfare than the typical immigrant who arrives during prime working years. Surprisingly, this age-at-arrival effect is not explained by differences in Social Security benefits between young-arrivers and old-arrivers. The problem of immigrant welfare use is not simply low incomes or poor labor market performance: decisions regarding takeup of benefits are an important explanation for the effect of age at arrival. Finally, the sharp rise in immigrants' use of welfare during the 1980s was due mostly to higher welfare participation rates of new immigrants.
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