Despite High Levels of Poverty,
Latino Immigrants Less Likely to use Welfare


(Claremont, CA...) Despite claims by politicians that Latino immigrants rely heavily on public assistance, a forthcoming report from the Tomas Rivera Center (TRC) provides evidence to the contrary.

Poverty and Welfare Recipiency Among Immigrants in California is the third in a series of studies commissioned by TRC examining the impact of immigrants on the California economy. The report, by Dr. Frank Bean, a nationally-recognized demographer at the University of Texas at Austin, compares welfare recipiency among immigrants and natives and is based on figures from the 1980 and 1990 Census.

Findings from Bean's analysis show that from 1979 to 1989 the percent of immigrant households in poverty has increased while the percent of native households in poverty has decreased (See Table 1). In 1989, 20.2 percent of immigrant households lived below the poverty threshold compared to only 11.2 percent of native-born households.

However, amid the increase in poverty among immigrants, this report finds that Latino immigrant households falling below the poverty line are less likely to receive welfare than their native counterparts. In contrast, native-born households, in general, living below the poverty line show an increase in welfare recipiency, from 21.8 percent in 1980 to 26.2 percent in 1990 (See Table 2).

Bean's study indicates that much of the general increase in welfare use by immigrants can be directly attributed to refugees, who are immediately eligible to receive a wide array of public benefits upon arrival to the United States. This study also finds that refugees who use public aid initially, achieve greater mobility toward economic independence.

Welfare Use Among Central and South American
Immigrant Households in Poverty Declines by 50%

TRC research also shows that although poverty in Central and South American immigrant households has increased by three percent in the last decade, the percent of households below the poverty line receiving public assistance has plummeted from 20.4 percent in 1980 to 10.9 percent in 1990.

"The results of this report directly contradict the negative stereotypes that are created about Latino immigrants," said Dr. Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Center. "Moreover, the study reaffirms previous social science research that demonstrates a commitment to a strong work ethic and risk-taking behavior by immigrants."

Copies of Poverty and Welfare Recipiency Among Immigrants in California are available for $12.00 from the Tomas Rivera Center.

TABLE 1

Poverty Rates Among Native and Immigrant Households
By Race and Ethnic Group, California 1979 and 1989

               House Holds (HHs )in Poverty 1979

                    # of HHs         %          Nbr in Povery
                   ---------       -----       ---------------

Native HHs         6,958,400        11.3        822,900
  Asian              107,400         9.8         10,500
  Black              601,200        24.5        147,100
  Non-Hisp. White  5,630,200         9.8        553,000
  Mexican            427,900        18.8         80,300
  Cen/S. American      3,800        18.4            700
  Other Hispanic     117,000        15.8         18,500
  Other               70,900        18.1         12,800

Immigrant HHs      1,634,300        15.8        261,500
  Asian              265,700        15.1         40,100
  Non-Hisp. White    733,000         9.9         72,700
  Mexican            480,500        23.4        112,300
  Cen/S. American     91,500        25.1         23,000
  Other Hispanic      51,600        12.6          6,500
  Other               12,000        19.2          6,900

               House Holds (HHs )in Poverty 1989

                    # of HHs         %           Nbr in Poverty
                   ---------       -----       -------------------

Native HHs         7,808,450        11.2        874,887
  Asian              143,819         9.3         13,403
  Black              676,078        21.4        144,443
  Non-Hisp. White  6,236,997         9.3        579,943
  Mexican            554,723        19.1        105,794
  Cen/S. American     11,830        10.1          1,196
  Other Hispanic     113,984        13.1         14,976
  Other               71,019        21.3         15,132

Immigrant HHs      2,526,888        20.2        509,340
  Asian              589,342        18.4        108,186
  Non-Hisp. White    797,030         9.3         74,503
  Mexican            820,404        30.9        253,747
  Cen/S. American    196,807        28.3         55,783
  Other Hispanic      69,108        13.5          9,360
  Other               54,197        14.3          7,761
TABLE 2

Public Assistance (PA) Rates and Amounts Received Among Native
and Immigrant Poverty Households by Race and Ethnic Group
California 1979 and 1989

                                   1979

                               % Pov HHs      # Pov HHs       $ Amount
                    # of HHs   Receiving      Receiving    Among Those
                  in Poverty          PA             PA      Receiving
                   ---------       -----       --------   ------------

Native HHs           822,900        21.8        180,200          2,958
  Asian               10,500         6.7            700            (a)
  Black              147,100        41.7         61,300          3,287
  Non-Hisp. White    553,000        14.4         79,700          2,661
  Mexican             80,300        37.0         29,700          3,130
  Cen/S. American        700        14.3            100            (a)
  Other Hispanic      18,500        26.5          4,900          2,604
  Other               12,800        29.7          3,800          3,116

Immigrant HHs        261,500        16.6         43,500          2,899
  Asian               40,100        22.2          8,900          3,590
  Non-Hisp. White     72,700        11.7          8,500          2,138
  Mexican            112,300        17.1         19,200          2,973
  Cen/S. American     23,000        20.4          4,700          2,559
  Other Hispanic       6,500        21.5          1,400            (a)
  Other                6,900        11.6            800            (a)

                                   1989

                               % Pov HHs      # Pov HHs       $ Amount
                    # of HHs   Receiving      Receiving    Among Those
                  in Poverty          PA             PA      Receiving
                   ---------       -----       --------   ------------

Native HHs           874,887        26.2        229,307          6,070
  Asian               13,403        11.8          1,586            (a)
  Black              144,443        44.1         63,752          5,764
  Non-Hisp. White    579,943        19.3        111,891          5,926
  Mexican            105,794        41.1         43,459          6,711
  Cen/S. American      1,196         (a)            (a)            (a)
  Other Hispanic      14,976        21.5          3,224          5,945
  Other               15,132        31.6          4,784          6,959

Immigrant HHs        509,340        20.4        104,039          6,510
  Asian              108,186        33.8         36,608          8,102
  Non-Hisp. White     74,503        16.1         11,999          5,442
  Mexican            253,747        18.0         45,552          5,979
  Cen/S. American     55,783        10.9          6,097          3,668
  Other Hispanic       9,360        23.9          2,236            (a)
  Other                7,761        19.9          1,547            (a)
Source: The Tomas Rivera Center 1994.

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