The new immigration: implications for poverty and public assistance utilization.

L. Jensen, M. Tienda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Central to the controversy over the new immigration is the worry that it has promoted an increase in the level of poverty and welfare utilization among immigrants. This study documents and explains immigrant-native trends and differentials in poverty and public assistance utilization during the period from 1960-1980. Results show that there is ample evidence that the level of poverty among immigrants, particularly recent immigrants, increased over the 1960-1980 period. However, there was little indication of a commensurate rise in the propensity of families to receive public assistance. There is also little evidence of a disproportionate and increasing burden of immigrants on public assistance coffers as the new immigration proceeds. Recent immigrants are no more likely to receive welfare than otherwise comparable natives. Regarding average annual public assistance income among welfare families, the empirical results suggest that immigrants differ little from natives in their degree of utilization. Like immigrants of previous waves, the new immigrants appear to be industrious and able to capitalize on their labor force potential to keep them out of poverty. This conclusion derives from findings that 1) in both the tabular and multivariate context, multiple earners kept a greater % of immigrant than native families out of poverty, and 2) immigrants showed a relative disinclination to use welfare as an income maintenance strategy. Still, the decline over time in ameliorative impact of multiple earners should be a source of concern. Also central to the concern over the new immigration is the increasing prevalence of nonwhites among immigrant cohorts. The sizable Hispanic component of the new immigration is particularly controversial. Among the most consistent findings of this study is the apparent deterioration in the economic status of white immigrants and the noticeable lack of any similar deterioration among Hispanic families. For example, among all the groups studied, recent white immigrants registered the largest increases in poverty over time. Poverty among recent Hispanic immigrants did not increase as sharply. Also, Hispanics became increasingly reluctant to use public assistance income whereas recent white immigrants did not, and revealed an increase in mean annual welfare receipt not nearly as great as that for white and Asian families. Admittedly, rates of poverty and public assistance receipt continue to be greater among Hispanics than whites. Still, changes over time reveal a marked deterioration among whites but no such deterioration among Hispanics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-13
Number of pages7
JournalMigration world magazine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development


Dive into the research topics of 'The new immigration: implications for poverty and public assistance utilization.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this