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Welfare Usage in the U.S.: Does Immigrant Birthplace and Immigration Status Matter?


  • Uwaifo Oyelere, Ruth

    () (Morehouse College)

  • Oyolola, Maharouf

    () (African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC))


The study of welfare participation in the U.S. prior to the 1996 welfare reform act and even afterward has focused on comparisons between native born and immigrant households. Analyses that have gone beyond this broad classification have focused on comparisons across race or with particular focus on particular groups like Hispanic immigrants. To the best of our knowledge, there is no study yet that tests for difference in welfare usage among immigrant groups and immigrant status. We do not expect welfare usage to differ among immigrant groups if we control for the factors that should predict welfare usage. Similarly, if immigration status does not prevent welfare usage for certain immigrants, then ceteris paribus, we do not expect welfare usage to differ among immigrant based on status. We investigate these possibilities by testing three related hypothesis using probability models. Our results suggest that birth place matters and the probability of welfare usage is not the same for all groups. We also find that for some birthplace groups, citizen and non-citizens differ with respect to welfare usage. Finally, we find that post welfare reform, the probability of being on welfare in comparison to U.S. born increased for all immigrant groups and these increases differed across groups. We provide possible explanations for our unexpected results.

Suggested Citation

  • Uwaifo Oyelere, Ruth & Oyolola, Maharouf, 2009. "Welfare Usage in the U.S.: Does Immigrant Birthplace and Immigration Status Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 4659, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4659

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Magnus Lofstrom & Frank Bean, 2002. "Assessing immigrant policy options: Labor market conditions and postreform declines in immigrants’ receipt of welfare," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(4), pages 617-637, November.
    2. Sonya Kostova Huffman & Maureen Kilkenny, 2007. "Regional welfare program and labour force participation," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 86(2), pages 215-239, June.
    3. Jorgen Hansen & Magnus Lofstrom, 2011. "Immigrant–Native Differences in Welfare Participation: The Role of Entry and Exit Rates," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(3), pages 412-442, July.
    4. George J. Borjas & Lynette Hilton, 1996. "Immigration and the Welfare State: Immigrant Participation in Means-Tested Entitlement Programs," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 575-604.
    5. George J. Borjas & Stephen J. Trejo, 1991. "Immigrant Participation in the Welfare System," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 44(2), pages 195-211, January.
    6. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
    7. Jorgen Hansen & Magnus Lofstrom, 2003. "Immigrant Assimilation and Welfare Participation Do Immigrants Assimilate Into or Out of Welfare?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(1).
    8. George J. Borjas, 2000. "Immigration and the Food Stamp Program," JCPR Working Papers 121, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    9. Borjas, George J, 1999. "Immigration and Welfare Magnets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 607-637, October.
    10. Madeline Zavodny, 1997. "Welfare and the locational choices of new immigrants," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Q II, pages 2-10.
    11. Francine D. Blau, 1984. "The Use of Transfer Payments by Immigrants," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 37(2), pages 222-239, January.
    12. Neeraj Kaushal, 2005. "New Immigrants' Location Choices: Magnets without Welfare," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 59-80, January.
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    More about this item


    immigrants; immigrant status; welfare reform; welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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