More than half of immigrants are on welfare … no, wait!

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) released a study today making this case that over half of the population of all immigrants in the United States are on some sort of public assistance. USAToday states CIS’ manuscript reveals 51% of all legal and illegal immigrant households receive some sort of public assistance. Native born households are at around 30%. Immigrant households with children are at 76% while native-born households are at around 52%.

Linda Chavez who worked in the Reagan Administration and heads the Becoming American Institute was quoted by USAToday as saying she agrees with the thrust of the study that America’s welfare system is too large, but most immigrants start off poor and may take some form of public assistance but in general tend to have potentially one recipient in a household that usually has a large family. Over time and even with future generations immigrants graduate to higher economic levels reducing the need for them to collect welfare programs.

“These kids who get subsidized school lunches today will go on to graduate high school … will go on to college and move up to the middle class of America,” Chavez said. “Every time we have a nativist backlash in our history, we forget that we see immigrants change very rapidly in the second generation.”

Immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute examined the study’s findings and offered a critique of it on his blog. He says the CIS conclusion that immigrants welfare at higher levels than native born Americans is exaggerated. He took issue not only with CIS’ methodology but that it omitted a lot of information that would have made better comparisons with immigrants and native-born Americans.

The first issue is that CIS counts the welfare use of households, which includes many native-born American citizens, rather than individuals. There might be some good reasons to do this but the immigrant-headed household variable CIS uses is ambiguous, poorly defined, and less used in modern research for those reasons. To CIS’ credit they try to separate out households with children but didn’t separate out American-born spouses. There is debate largely over whether to count the American born children of immigrants as a welfare cost of immigration. If we should count them, shouldn’t we also count the welfare use of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of immigrants? Such a way of counting would obviously produce a negative result but it would also not be informative.

Another problem with counting households rather than individuals is that immigrants and natives have different sized households. According to the American Community Survey, immigrant households have on average 3.37 people in them compared to 2.5 people in native-born households. All else remaining equal, we should expect higher welfare use in immigrant households just because they’re larger. CIS should have corrected for household size by focusing on individual welfare use – which is included in the SIPP.

You can read the rest of Alex Nowrasteh’s blog post here.

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) are environmentalist front groups started by a retired ophthalmologist named John Tanton out of Michigan. The groups are financed in large part by a pro-Eugenics organization named the Colcom Foundation out of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Tanton’s organizations also get donations from two other anti-immigration funding sources, one connected to Colcom, and another based in New York City.

In terms of environmentalism, hostility to immigrants and immigration is the next irrational and illogical conclusion in the environmentalist movement’s multi-pronged holy war (i.e. jihad) to rid the planet of human beings. In 2008, CIS research piece linking immigration to man-made climate change which is indicative of the propaganda they produce in order to achieve the goal of sacrificing human beings to the needs of nature. Immigration and immigrants are an economic and cultural boon to any country wiling to take them and it is small wonder that green-oriented groups, like Jon Tanton’s, would release a study geared to exaggerate immigrant welfare levels. By demonizing immigrants and immigration it helps reduce the overall population in their minds.