Use of Means-Tested Transfer Programs by Immigrants, Their Children, and Their Children's Children
Public concern over immigrants' use of welfare culminated in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Welfare Reform Act (WRA)). Welfare reform radically changed the welfare system in the United States. Its impact on low-skilled U.S. citizens is the subject of intense debate and study. While the changes brought by this law affect all welfare recipients, noncitizens were expressly singled out. The welfare reform act affects the panoply of government sponsored support more profoundly for noncitizens than for any other group. We first present a brief summary of the changes in the welfare system affecting noncitizens, using data from the 1994-1996 Current Populations Surveys to analyze these changes. In addition to providing information on changes in welfare rules pertaining to immigrants, the contribution of this research to the literature on immigrants and welfare is threefold: first, we use the most recent data available before the large overhaul in the welfare rules and those data have rich information on a wide range of transfer programs. Therefore this work should help paint a clear picture of immigrants' reliance on welfare prior to the welfare reform. Secondly, the data allow us to examine several groups of interest, in particular, immigrants, the second generation and the third (and higher) generation. Lastly, combining the CPS data with 1970 Census data allows us to calculate intergenerational correlation in welfare use between immigrants and their children. So this paper should shed some light on the possible effects, both short term and long term, of welfare reform.
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