Welfare use among immigrants

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reports that immigrants use welfare programs more than non-immigrants, and that illegal immigrants use some welfare programs (food stamps and Medicaid) more than legal immigrants. The overall participation rates are very heavily driven by lower education levels of immigrant families, especially Hispanic.
The study fails to analyze welfare participation rates by household income, which of course is more directly causative of welfare use than is education level.
To its credit, CIS dispells the myth that immigrants come here to get on welfare. “An unwillingness to work is not the reason immigrant welfare use is high. The vast majority (95 percent) of immigrant households with children had at least one worker in 2009. But their low education levels mean that more than half of these working immigrant households with children still accessed the welfare system during 2009.”
Immigrant households not only much more likely to be headed by some one without a high school degree (30% compared to 10%). CIS estimates that 80% of adult illegal immigrants have not completed high school or have only a high school education. CIS does not estimate household income levels.
These low education households are, I expect, among immigrants, and more among illegal immigrants, to earn less than native low income households.
Hispanic immigrant households use cash assistance and housing assistance about as much as native households (both in medium single digits – illegal immigrant use of cash assistance is at 1%). They are about twice as likely to use food stamps and Medicaid.
One of the notable findings in the CIS report is that welfare use among both immigrants and native households has risen significantly during the Great Recession.

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