Report: Immigrants Use $6,234 in Welfare Benefits per Household, 41 Percent More than Non-Immigrant Households

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Immigrant-headed households use 41 percent more federal welfare benefits than their native-born counterparts, according to a new Center for Immigration Studies analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The average household headed by an immigrant (both legal and illegal) in 2012 consumed $6,234 federal in welfare benefits, while the average native-headed households consumed $4,431 in benefits, says the CIS report, which is based on data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation.

Broken down by category, author Jason Richwine details how immigrant-headed households consume on average 33 percent more cash welfare (Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), 57 percent more food assistance (food stamps, the Women, Infants, and Children program, and school lunch), and 44 percent more Medicaid. Both groups, however, use housing assistance at similar levels.

The analysis dovetails off an earlier CIS study which found that 51 percent of immigrant-headed households use at least one welfare program, compared to 30 percent of native-headed households.

“The greater consumption of welfare dollars by immigrants can be explained in large part by their lower level of education and larger number of children compared to natives,” Richwine writes in Monday’s report. “Over 24 percent of immigrant households are headed by a high school dropout, compared to just 8 percent of native households. In addition, 13 percent of immigrant households have three or more children, vs. just 6 percent of native households.”

Richwine’s study further reveals that legal immigrant households tend to use more welfare benefits on average — $6,378 — than illegal immigrant households $5,692, whose welfare benefits are largely accepted on behalf of U.S.-born children.

Meanwhile, the immigrants’ region of origin are also indicators of higher or lower welfare use.

“At $8,251, households headed by immigrants from Central America and Mexico have the highest welfare costs of any sending region — 86 percent higher than the costs of native households,” Richwine writes.

Immigrants from Europe and South Asia, on the other hand, use fewer welfare dollars than even native-headed households. With the average European immigrant headed household using $3,509 worth of benefits and South Asian immigrant households using $2,565 in benefits.

“Immigrants are such heavy users of welfare not because they don’t work, but because, on average, they have little education and thus earn low wages,” Mark Krikorian, CIS’ executive director, said in a statement. “If we continue to permit large numbers of less-educated people to move here from abroad, we have to accept that there will be huge and ongoing costs to taxpayers.”

Read the full report.


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