Method:The data source for this study is the Immigrant Second Generation in Metropolitan New York Study; a random telephone survey of 3,415 young adults (aged 18 to 32) who lived in metropolitan New York between the years 1998 and 2000 (Kasinitz, Mollenkopf, Waters, and Holdaway, 2008). We employed seven programs as outcomes: (1) free school lunch, (2) SSI and disability grants, (3) Medicaid, (4) food stamps, (5) Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), (6) housing subsidies and, (7) Social Security. We estimated five sets of multivariate nested linear probability regression models where we introduced each group of predictors separately to better gauge their impact on welfare use. The first model in each set included only the immigrant generation/ ethnicity variables. The second model added social assistance use during childhood. The third model included an interaction between ethnic generation and reliance on welfare during childhood. The fourth model adjusted for the demographic and socioeconomic determinants of childhood welfare use; whereas the fifth model included all the variables present in previous models plus the demographic and socioeconomic determinants of welfare use during adulthood.
Results: After adjusting for the demographic and socioeconomic determinants of childhood welfare use, we found that most immigrant groups did not differ from natives' reliance on welfare. Moreover, traditionally disadvantaged immigrant groups were not dependent on welfare. In fact, immigrants from South America, Dominicans and West Indians had the lowest reliance rates over the life course, participating on welfare even at lower rates than native comparison groups.
Implications:: It is well established that unequal access to basic rights like health, education and nutrition early in life has negative cumulative effects throughout the life course. Providing immigrants access to social welfare services that guarantee their basic needs does not generate dependency but it actually contributes to the successful assimilation of subsequent generations.