More Than Half of Immigrants on Public Assistance

The Center for Immigration Studies is out with a blockbuster report that finds 51 percent of immigrant households—both legal and illegal—receive some kind of public assistance, versus just 30 percent of native households. Whether immigrants contribute more to total economic activity or public revenues greater than they receive in benefits is not addressed in this report, and remains a subject of fierce controversy.

From the executive summary:

This study is the first in recent years to examine immigrant (legal and illegal) and native welfare use using the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). While its complexity makes it difficult to use, the survey is widely regarded as providing the most accurate picture of welfare participation. The SIPP shows immigrant households use welfare at significantly higher rates than native households, even higher than indicated by other Census surveys.

  • In 2012, 51 percent of households headed by an immigrant (legal or illegal) reported that they used at least one welfare program during the year, compared to 30 percent of native households. Welfare in this study includes Medicaid and cash, food, and housing programs.
  • Welfare use is high for both new arrivals and well-established immigrants. Of households headed by immigrants who have been in the country for more than two decades, 48 percent access welfare.
  • No single program explains immigrants’ higher overall welfare use. For example, not counting subsidized school lunch, welfare use is still 46 percent for immigrants and 28 percent for natives. Not counting Medicaid, welfare use is 44 percent for immigrants and 26 percent for natives.

There’s much more in the 52-page report. Wonder if Trump will pick up on this. As Milton Friedman used to say, you can have a generous welfare state, or you can have high rates of unskilled immigration, but you can’t have both for very long.