Abstract: Welfare Utilization of Immigrants (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

319P Welfare Utilization of Immigrants

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Nahri Jung, PhD, Research Associate, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Minseop Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong
Background: The primary purpose of this study was to examine the effect of human capital (e.g., English ability and educational attainment) and social capital (e.g., ethnic bonding capital and bridging social capital to main society) on the welfare utilization of immigrant in the United State. The current study addressed the following hypotheses: 1) Immigrants’ human capital would have an effect on the welfare utilization of immigrant, 2) Immigrants’ human capital would have an indirect effect on the welfare utilization of immigrant via ethnic bonding social capital, and 3) Immigrants’ human capital would have an indirect effect on the welfare utilization of immigrant via bridging social capital to mainstream. It was also hypothesized that the indirect effect of human capital on immigrants’ welfare utilization will be different, depending on the types of social capital.

Methods: To address these hypotheses, secondary data analysis was conducted, using data from the Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles Survey (IIMMLA), which investigated assimilation patterns among six Latino and Asian groups in the Los Angeles metropolitan area in 2004. Given that this study aimed to examine the roles that human and social capital play in the process of immigrants’ economic integration into the host society, the current study focused on the 1.5th, and 2nd generations (N=3,440). Using Mplus 7, structural equation modeling (SEM) path analyses were conducted to test theoretical mediation models. 

Results: The results, first, showed that immigrants’ human capital (education attainment and English ability) had a positive effect on their welfare utilization. Second, the positive effect of immigrants’ ethnic bonding and bridging social capitals was not detected for welfare utilization. Third, education attainment had not significant effect on both ethnic bonding and bridging social capital, whereas English ability had mixed effects on social capital; English ability decreased ethnic bonding social capital, but increased bridging social capital to mainstream society.

Conclusion/Implications: The finding of this study shows that low-income immigrants with better human capital are more likely to use public assistance, suggesting that immigrants’ underutilization of welfare programs would be accounted for by low-income immigrants’ lack of human capital that may make it difficult for them to have access to information about welfare programs or to get assistance in applying for such program due to language barriers. The finding that bridging social capital was associated with lower likelihood of Medicaid use, albeit marginally significant, also implies another barrier, stigma perceived by low-income immigrants who receive public assistance in the host society. The inclusion of welfare utilization for low-income immigrants means that the current study likely shed light on the roles of human and social capital in the receipt of public assistance that is a last resort for self-sufficiency among the most economically vulnerable immigrant population.