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Immigrants, Welfare Reform, and the U.S. Safety Net

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  • Marianne Bitler
  • Hilary W. Hoynes

Abstract

Beginning with the 1996 federal welfare reform law many of the central safety net programs in the U.S. eliminated eligibility for legal immigrants, who had been previously eligible on the same terms as citizens. These dramatic cutbacks affected eligibility not only for cash welfare assistance for families with children, but also for food stamps, Medicaid, SCHIP, and SSI. In this paper, we comprehensively examine the status of the U.S. safety net for immigrants and their family members. We document the policy changes that affected immigrant eligibility for these programs and use the CPS for 1995-2010 to analyze trends in program participation, income, and poverty among immigrants (and natives). We pay particular attention to the recent period and examine how immigrants and their children are faring in the "Great Recession" with an eye toward revealing how these policy changes have affected the success of the safety net in protecting this population.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne Bitler & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2011. "Immigrants, Welfare Reform, and the U.S. Safety Net," NBER Working Papers 17667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17667
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Borjas, George J., 2003. "Welfare reform, labor supply, and health insurance in the immigrant population," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 933-958, November.
    2. Steven J. Haider & Robert F. Schoeni & Yuhua Bao & Caroline Danielson, 2004. "Immigrants, welfare reform, and the economy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4), pages 745-764.
    3. Caroline Ratcliffe & Signe-Mary McKernan & Sisi Zhang, 2011. "How Much Does the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reduce Food Insecurity?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1082-1098.
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    Cited by:

    1. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Susan L. Averett & Cynthia A. Bansak, 2016. "Welfare reform and immigrant fertility," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(3), pages 757-779, July.
    2. Maria-Elena Trinidad Young & Gabriela León-Pérez & Christine R. Wells & Steven P. Wallace, 2018. "More Inclusive States, Less Poverty Among Immigrants? An Examination of Poverty, Citizenship Stratification, and State Immigrant Policies," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 37(2), pages 205-228, April.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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