WELFARE AND THE CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS: TRANSMISSION OF DEPENDENCE OR INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE?
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 dissertation uses the Current Population Survey and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 to explore the association between exposure to welfare and young adult outcomes of educational attainment and labor force participation with a focus on parental nativity status as well as broad country of origin group. A group-level analysis is performed using linear probability models on aggregate national-origin groups to ascertain whether the welfare use of an immigrant group affects the average level of high school graduation, college enrollment, and welfare participation of the second generation, net of immigrant groups education level. An additional analysis assesses the relationship between prior parental welfare legacy and subsequent outcomes at the micro-level of the individual using binary and multinomial logit models. Results from the CPS analysis provide no evidence of an intergenerational correlation in welfare receipt across immigrant generations, but do provide descriptive evidence of a positive correlation between immigrant first generation welfare receipt and the young adult second generation educational attainment. The NLSY97 analysis shows a persistent negative association between welfare legacy and high school graduation; a negative association that is most pronounced for children of natives. Results of this study also show the largest 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.