Legal and Illegal Immigrants Putting Strain on Welfare System

Posted: Apr 08, 2011 10:00 AM

The Center for Immigration Studies has found that a majority of both legal andillegal immigrants with one or more children under the age of 18 are using atleast one form of welfare in the United States, with the greatest burdenfalling on programs like medicaid and food assistance in Arizona, Californiaand Texas. The study cites lack of education resulting in lower income as areason for immigrant dependence on welfare programs, not laziness orunemployment. The rate of welfare dependence is much higher among illegalimmigrants than legal immigrants.

In 2009 (based on data collected in2010), 57 percent of households headed by an immigrant (legal and illegal) withchildren (under 18) used at least one welfare program, compared to 39 percentfor native households with children.

Immigrant households with children used welfare programs at consistently higherrates than natives, even before the current recession. In 2001, 50 percent ofall immigrant households with children used at least one welfare program,compared to 32 percent for natives.

Households with children with the highest welfare use rates are those headed byimmigrants from the Dominican Republic (82 percent), Mexico and Guatemala (75percent), and Ecuador (70 percent). Those with the lowest use rates are fromthe United Kingdom (7 percent), India (19 percent), Canada (23 percent), andKorea (25 percent).

The states where immigrant households with children have the highest welfareuse rates are Arizona (62 percent); Texas, California, and New York (61percent); Pennsylvania (59 percent); Minnesota and Oregon (56 percent); andColorado (55 percent).

We estimate that 52 percent of households with children headed by legalimmigrants used at least one welfare program in 2009, compared to 71 percentfor illegal immigrant households with children. Illegal immigrantsgenerally receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children.