How Are Immigrants Faring After Welfare Reform?. Food Insecurity and Moderate Hunger

03/04/2002

LANYCIS suggests that about one-third of all immigrant families in Los Angeles and 31 percent in New York are food insecure. Just over 10 percent in both cities experience food insecurity with moderate hunger. Food insecurity and hunger rates are higher for noncitizens than naturalized citizens, but do not vary much among undocumented, legal immigrant or refugee families. Food insecurity rates for noncitizens in New York City and Los Angeles during 1998-99 are 10 to 15 percentage points higher and moderate hunger rates about three times higher in LANYCIS than in the April 1999 CPS. Discrepancies in these figures may be explained by differences in sample sizes and sampling strategies between the two surveys.(44)

The April 1999 CPS shows higher food insecurity but similar levels of hunger for noncitizens when compared to native families. In the CPS food insecurity is 9 percent higher for noncitizen families than for naturalized families and 13 percent higher than for native-born families in Los Angeles. Food insecurity is 4 percent higher for noncitizen families in New York. But moderate hunger rates are nearly the same regardless of citizenship in both cities (Table 2.6).

 

Table 2.6.
Food Security among Immigrant Families, by Citizenship and Legal Status

Citizenship and Legal Status**

Population (thousands) Food Security*
Food Secure Food Insecure
Total Insecure Without Hunger Moderate Hunger

Los Angeles County

LANYCIS Immigrant Families

1,846 66% 34% 22% 12%
Naturalized 648 74% 26% 19% 7%
Noncitizen 1,199 61% 39% 24% 14%

Legal

630 63% 37% 24% 13%

Refugee

85 57% 43% 34% 9%

Undocumented

483 59% 41% 24% 18%

CPS Native Families

3,094 88% 12% 9% 3%

CPS Immigrant Families

2,221 78% 22% 18% 4%
Naturalized citizen 737 84% 16% 12% 3%
Noncitizen 1,483 75% 25% 21% 4%

New York City

LANYCIS Immigrant Families

1,539 69% 31% 20% 11%
Naturalized citizen 597 77% 23% 16% 7%
Noncitizen 942 63% 37% 23% 14%

Legal

605 62% 38% 21% 17%

Refugee

110 69% 31% 22% 9%

Undocumented

227 64% 36% 28% 7%

CPS Native Citizen Families

2,539 89% 11% 7% 3%

CPS Immigrant Families

1,865 86% 14% 11% 2%
Naturalized citizen 708 89% 11% 9% 2%
Noncitizen 1,157 85% 15% 12% 3%

LANYCIS Sample Size: 3363

CPS Sample Size: 1707

* Food Security is based on a six item scale developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (Appendix 3).
** An undocumented family includes at least one undocumented adult. In a legal immigrant family there is at least one legal immigrant adult but no undocumented adults. Refugee families are those with at least one refugee but no undocumented or legal immigrant adults. Finally, naturalized families include only naturalized adults. The legal status and citizenship of children are not considered in this classification. See Appendix 2 for details.
NOTE: CPS figures in this table are for New York City and Los Angeles.

LANYCIS shows that patterns of food insecurity do not vary by tenure in the United States in any meaningful way. Families with adults entering before 1982 are not substantially more or less likely to be food insecure than families with adults entering after 1996. Nor is there a discernible pattern associating period of entry with moderate hunger.

By contrast, English proficiency appears closely correlated with food security. In Los Angeles the rate of food insecurity is twice as high among LEP families (40 percent) as among proficient families (21 percent). In New York the rate is one and a half times as high for LEP (36 percent) as for proficient families (24 percent). About half of families where adults speak no English at all are food insecure in Los Angeles, and in New York that figure is 57 percent. Moreover, moderate hunger is also much higher where English proficiency is lower. Over one-fifth of families in the no English category experience moderate hunger in both cities, compared to only 6 percent of families where at least one adult speaks English very well (Table 2.7).

 

Table 2.7
Food Security among Immigrant Families, by English Proficiency

English Proficiency**

Population (thousands) Food Security*
Food Secure Food Insecure
Total Insecure Without Hunger Moderate Hunger

Los Angeles County

All Immigrant Families

1,832 66% 34% 22% 12%
English Proficient 559 79% 21% 15% 6%

English at Home

151 78% 22% 17% 6%

Very Well

408 80% 20% 15% 6%
Limited English Proficient 1,273 60% 40% 25% 15%

Well

507 69% 31% 21% 9%

Not Well

570 55% 45% 27% 18%

Not At All

197 51% 49% 28% 21%

New York City

All Immigrant Families

1,538 69% 31% 20% 11%
English Proficient 601 76% 24% 15% 9%

English at Home

204 71% 29% 15% 14%

Very Well

397 79% 21% 15% 6%
Limited English Proficient 937 64% 36% 23% 13%

Well

393 78% 22% 16% 7%

Not Well

418 57% 43% 27% 16%

Not At All

126 43% 57% 34% 23%

Sample Size: 3282

*Food Security is based on a six item scale developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (Appendix 3).
** Respondents were first asked if they primarily speak a language other than English at home. Those who primarily speak another language (the vast majority of samples in both cities) were then asked whether they speak English "very well", "well", "not well" or "not at all." We categorize people speaking only English or English very well as proficient, and those speaking English well, not well or not at all as limited English proficient (LEP).
Source: Urban Institute, LANYCIS

Family composition also shows a strong association with food security. Thirty-eight percent of immigrant families with children experience food insecurity in both cities, and 12-13 percent experience moderate hunger. Half of all single-parent immigrant families with children in New York City and 45 percent in Los Angles are food insecure, compared to only about 35 percent of two-parent families. Food insecurity rates are lower for families with elders than for those without in both cities (Table 2.8).

 

Table 2.8.
Food Security among Immigrant Families, by Family Composition

Family Composition**

 

Population (thousands)

Share of all families Food Security*
Food Secure Food Insecure
Total Insecure Without Hunger Moderate Hunger

Los Angeles County

All Immigrant Families

1,846 100% 66% 34% 22% 12%
Families without Elders 1,713 93% 64% 36% 23% 13%

Working-age adult(s) without Children

858 46% 67% 33% 20% 13%

One Adult with Children

139 8% 55% 45% 26% 19%

Two or More Adults with Children

716 39% 64% 36% 25% 11%
Families with Elders 133 7% 80% 20% 16% 4%

Elders without Adults

58 3% 89% 11% 6% 5%

Elders with Adults

75 4% 73% 27% 24% 3%

All families with Children

869 47% 62% 38% 25% 12%

New York City

All Immigrant Families

1,539 100% 69% 31% 20% 11%

Families without Elders

1,333 87% 68% 32% 20% 12%

Working-age adult(s) without Children

786 51% 72% 28% 17% 10%

One Adult with Children

119 8% 50% 50% 29% 21%

Two or More Adults with Children

428 28% 65% 35% 24% 12%

Families with Elders

205 13% 73% 27% 18% 9%

Elders without Adults

121 8% 70% 30% 22% 9%

Elders with Adults

85 5% 79% 21% 13% 9%

All families with Children

570 37% 62% 38% 25% 13%

Sample Size: 3363

*Food Security is based on a six item scale developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (Appendix 3).
** Children are under age 18. Working-age adults are ages 18 to 64, and elders are over age 64.
Source: Urban Institute, LANYCIS

Family composition and English proficiency explain variation in food security the most, when all these factors are considered together. The odds of food insecurity and moderate hunger are twice as high for LEP families as for proficient families, when controlling for citizenship, legal status, family composition and tenure in the United States. Food insecurity odds are twice as high for families with three children and three times as high for those with four or more children, when compared to families with no children. Odds are also higher for families with one or zero working-age adults when compared to those with two or more working-age adults. Families with more children and fewer working-age adults are also more likely to experience moderate hunger. The odds of food insecurity and moderate hunger do not vary significantly among families with different citizenship and legal status (Table 2.9).(45)

 

Table 2.9.
Logistic Regression on Odds of Food Insecurity and Moderate Hunger for Immigrant Families

Variable

Odds of Food Insecurity* Odds of Moderate Hunger*
Odds Ratio P-Value Odds Ratio P-Value

In New York (vs. Los Angeles)

Citizenship and Legal Status (vs. Naturalized)**

In Los Angeles

Naturalized (reference group)

1.000   1.000  

Legal

1.262 0.268 1.379 0.252

Refugee

1.335 0.435 0.665 0.312

Undocumented

1.029 0.884 1.335 0.286

In New York City

Naturalized

0.682 0.144 0.849 0.654

Legal

1.330 0.828 2.141 0.207

Refugee

1.012 0.077 1.168 0.398

Undocumented

1.261 0.174 0.731 0.189

Limited English Proficient (LEP)***

1.968 0.000 2.119 0.004

Tenure (at least 10 years in U.S.)

1.058 0.696 1.366 0.113

Family Composition

One or Zero Adults Ages 18 to 64 (vs. 2 or more)

1.375 0.039 1.934 0.002

Number of Children under 18 (vs. no children)

One Child

1.187 0.396 0.925 0.802

Two Children

1.390 0.083 0.804 0.423

Three Children

1.937 0.004 2.223 0.008

Four or More Children

3.270 0.000 2.477 0.010

Number of Elders Ages 65 and over (vs. no elders)

One Elder

0.872 0.556 0.625 0.071

Two Elders

0.679 0.253 1.009 0.987

N

3363 3363
Log likelihood -2029 -1131
Wald Chi-Square (16 df) 61.78 89.42
*Food Security is based on a six item scale developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (Appendix 3).
** An undocumented family includes at least one undocumented adult. In a legal immigrant family there is at least one legal immigrant adult but no undocumented adults. Refugee families are those with at least one refugee but no undocumented or legal immigrant adults. Finally, naturalized families include only naturalized adults. The legal status and citizenship of children are not considered in this classification.
*** Respondents were first asked if they primarily speak a language other than English at home. Those who primarily speak another language (the vast majority of samples in both cities) were then asked whether they speak English "very well", "well", "not well" or "not at all." We categorize people speaking only English or English very well as proficient, and those speaking English well, not well or not at all as limited English proficient (LEP).
Source: Urban Institute, LANYCIS

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