NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Immigrant Use of Welfare Has Climbed to Pre-Reform Levels

March 19, 2003

One of the aims of the 1996 welfare reform law was to reduce immigrants' dependency on welfare handouts. That worked initially. But by 2001, immigrants were consuming more welfare than they did before the reforms were passed, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

  • The report found that 21.9 percent of households led by immigrants relied on at least one welfare program in 1996.
  • That fell to 19.7 percent in 1999, but by 2001 it had climbed to 22.7 percent.
  • Moreover, in 1996 immigrants accounted for 14.2 percent of households relying on welfare -- which climbed to 17.9 percent in 2001.
  • More than three million immigrant families were enrolled in a welfare program in 2001 -- with about 2.4 million families being led by legal entrants and 663,000 led by illegals.

The study also reported that education levels are a key indicator of whether households will rely on welfare. Some 42 percent of households led by immigrants who dropped out of high school use welfare. But only 10 percent of immigrant households led by some one with a college education are on welfare.

"You can't cut immigrants off of welfare," claims Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies. "You're going to have to accept the fact that they are using a lot more programs, or you're going to have to change immigration policy," he adds.

Source: Stephan Dinan, "Immigrant Use of Welfare Increases," Washington Times, March 18, 2003.


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