Public Assistance and Private Support of Immigrants
This study addresses receiving AFDC and private support (both monetary and nonmonetary) and their interrelationship among immigrant families with dependent children. Building upon social capital theory, our theoretical framework emphasizes the role of community social capital and hypothesizes links between social capital and the receipt of public and private support, and the complementary nature of AFDC and private support for immigrant families. The latter hypothesis stands in contrast to existing economic theory which argues for a "crowding out" hypothesis under which AFDC support reduces private support and leads immigrant families to assimilate into a welfare culture. In a methodological step forward from the literature, we develop measures of both the quantity and quality of community social capital, coethnic contact and coethnic economic activity at the county level, to test our hypotheses. There are two sets of major findings. The first demonstrate the effects of community social capital on the receipt of AFDC and private support. The second show no displacement of private monetary support by AFDC for immigrants and that the complementary relationship between AFDC and private non-monetary support is stronger for immigrants than for natives, thereby challenging the crowding out hypothesis and welfare assimilation. Our findings reveal the importance of including the quality of community social capital and considering nonmonetary forms of private support in the analysis. An important policy implication is that policy makers do not need to fear that receipt of ADFC will lead immigrant families with children to adopt the American welfare culture since our results show that AFDC complements private support among immigrants, much more strongly than among natives.
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