Sociology Faculty Publications


Welfare and the Children of Immigrants: Transmission of Dependence or Investment in the Future?

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The public concern that immigrant families might be using a disproportionate share of social benefits and transmitting some form of public dependency to their children, combined with the rising levels of immigrants entering the country, fueled the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, which limited public assistance to many immigrant families. This paper uses the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 to explore the association between exposure to welfare and young adult outcomes of high school graduation, college enrollment and labor force participation with a focus on parental nativity status as well as broad country of origin group. Results indicate a persistent negative association between welfare legacy and high school graduation; a negative association that is most pronounced for children of natives. Results also show the largest positive effect of welfare receipt among the most disadvantaged group, the young adult children of immigrants from Mexican and Central American countries. The main finding of this study suggests that the negative impacts of welfare receipt might be lessened and in some cases reversed among the young adults from immigrant families. Such findings challenge the common notion that immigrant families use welfare as a crutch across generations and raise serious concern about U.S. immigration and welfare policies.

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Availability via databases maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine.

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Population Research and Policy Review

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