Updated January 16, 1995

footnote: Analyses of immigrant usage of welfare in general are filled with pitfalls for the unwary reader. A number of possible distortions can arise if one is not careful.

For example, as we pointed out earlier, there has been a sharp upward time trend in immigrant welfare usage. Yet many published analyses (or summaries of analyses) on such usage fail to state the time period being used. Many analyses also fail to state whether they have excluded refugees from the figures.

In addition, many analyses of immigrants exclude the elderly, which as we have seen here, are major users of welfare. Most analyses also exclude U.S.-born minor children of immigrants. Those children are U.S. citizens, not immigrants, but by excluding such children, immigrant welfare use statistics are distorted, since those statistics ignore the fact that the immigrant parents obtain welfare via their citizen children.

For these reasons, it is more realistic to use a household basis for analysis. The 1990 Census data show that about 12% of immigrant-headed households in California contain at least one person on welfare, versus about 9% of the native-headed households. In other words, an immigrant-headed household is 33% more likely than a native-headed household to receive some welfare money. See ``Immigrants in California: Finding from the 1990 Census,'' Hans Johnson, California Research Bureau, 1993.