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Forgoing Food Assistance out of Fear: Simulating the Child Poverty Impact of a Making SNAP a Legal Liability for Immigrants


  • Laird, Jennifer
  • Santelli, Isaac
  • Waldfogel, Jane
  • Wimer, Christopher


"Public charge," a term used by U.S. immigration officials for more than 100 years, refers to a person who relies on, or is likely to rely on, public assistance at the government's expense. Foreign-born individuals who are deemed at high risk of becoming a public charge can be denied green cards; those outside of the U.S. can be denied entry. Current public charge policy largely applies to cash benefits. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a regulation that will allow officials to consider the take-up risk of both cash and non-cash benefits when making public charge determinations. According to Current Population Survey (CPS) data, nearly 90% of children with immigrant parents are U.S.-born and therefore eligible for public benefits. Most of these children live in a household with at least one non-citizen. Using CPS data, we examine the potential child poverty impact of the proposed DHS public charge regulation. Our simulation results show that, depending on the chilling effect, up to 3 million U.S. citizen children could lose access to SNAP as a result of the new public charge regulation.

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  • Laird, Jennifer & Santelli, Isaac & Waldfogel, Jane & Wimer, Christopher, 2018. "Forgoing Food Assistance out of Fear: Simulating the Child Poverty Impact of a Making SNAP a Legal Liability for Immigrants," SocArXiv 6sgpk, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:6sgpk
    DOI: 10.31219/

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