Welfare Use by Legal and
Illegal Immigrant Households
An Analysis of Medicaid, cash, food, and housing programs
By Steven A. Camarota
This report is a companion to a recent report published by the Center for Immigration Studies looking at welfare use by all immigrant households, based on Census Bureau data. This report separates legal and illegal immigrant households and estimates welfare use using the same Census Bureau data as that study. This analysis shows that legal immigrant households make extensive use of most welfare programs, while illegal immigrant households primarily benefit from food programs and Medicaid through their U.S.-born children. Low levels of education — not legal status — is the main reason immigrant welfare use is high.
Among the findings:
• An estimated 49 percent of households headed by legal immigrants used one or more welfare programs in 2012, compared to 30 percent of households headed by natives.
• Households headed by legal immigrants have higher use rates than native households overall and for cash programs (14 percent vs. 10 percent), food programs (36 percent vs. 22 percent), and Medicaid (39 percent vs. 23 percent). Use of housing programs is similar.
• Legal immigrant households account for three-quarters of all immigrant households accessing one or more welfare programs.
• Of legal immigrant households with children, 72 percent access one or more welfare programs, compared to 52 percent of native households.
• Turning to households headed by immigrants in the country illegally, we estimate that 62 percent used one or more welfare programs in 2012, compared to 30 percent of native households.
• Households headed by immigrants illegally in the country have higher use rates than native households overall and for food programs (57 percent vs. 22 percent) and Medicaid (51 percent vs. 23 percent). Use of cash programs by illegal immigrants is lower than use by natives (5 percent vs. 10 percent), as is use of housing programs (4 percent vs. 6 percent).
• There is a child present in 86 percent of illegal immigrant households using welfare, and this is the primary way that these households access programs.
• Of illegal immigrant households with children, 87 percent access one or more welfare programs compared to 52 percent of native households.
• There is a worker present in 85 percent of legal immigrant-headed households and 95 percent of illegal immigrant-headed households. But while most immigrant households have a worker, many are less-educated, earn low wages, and are eligible for welfare.
Steven A. Camarota is the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies.
Read full text at: http://cis.org/sites/cis.org/files/camarota-welfare-illegals_1.pdf