These survey data indicate that many immigrants in Los Angeles County and New York City, particularly those who are not citizens, live in families experiencing economic hardship. We examined an array of hardship measures, including poverty, food insecurity, moderate hunger, housing problems, and lack of health insurance. When compared with native citizen families, the immigrant families in the survey have consistently lower incomes and higher hardship levels, despite relatively high employment rates. About 80 percent of the children in these immigrant families are native-born citizens, and they share economic hardship with their immigrant parents and siblings.
These data were collected in 1999 to 2000, roughly three years after welfare reform was enacted and implemented and several months to a year after the federal government issued guidance about the public charge implications of benefits participation. Since these data are cross-sectional and the analyses are primarily descriptive, these findings should not necessarily be interpreted as the effects of welfare reform or other state and federal policy changes. Indeed, immigrants faced many hardships before the laws were enacted. The findings outlined in this report, however, show reduced benefit use and substantial levels of need among immigrant families in program areas directly affected by welfare reforms' immigrant eligibility restrictions. In addition, our findings are consistent with other research indicating declines in public benefits use by immigrant families since 1996.