How Are Immigrants Faring After Welfare Reform?. Food Stamp Receipt among Food Insecure Families

03/04/2002

The most important measure of FSP coverage is food stamp receipt among food insecure immigrant families. Although the 1999 CPS showed comparable FSP participation among low-income citizen and noncitizen families in New York and Los Angeles, the vast majority of food insecure immigrant families in LANCYSIS did not receive food stamps. Only 18 percent of food insecure non-elderly families in Los Angeles and 22 percent in New York received benefits during the year before the survey. Coverage was only a few percentage points higher for families experiencing moderate hunger (Table 2.16).

 

Table 2.16.
Food Stamp Receipt by Food Security among Non-Elderly Immigrant Families

Food Security*

Population (thousands) Food Stamp receipt during the previous year
Recipients (thousands) Share of population

Los Angeles County

All Immigrant Families

1,678 148 9%

Food Secure

1,090 45 4%

Total Food Insecure

589 104 18%

Without Hunger

388 57 15%

Moderate Hunger

201 47 23%

New York City

All Immigrant Families

1,303 158 12%

Food Secure

898 68 8%

Total Food Insecure

405 90 22%

Without Hunger

259 54 21%

Moderate Hunger

146 36 25%

Sample Size: 2782

* Food Security is based on a six-item scale developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (Appendix 3).
Note: Non-elderly families are those with no members ages 65 or over.
Source: Urban Institute, LANYCIS

Status seems to matter more for food stamps receipt among food insecure families in New York than in Los Angeles. In New York, naturalized families receive food stamps at a higher rate (28 percent) than legal or undocumented families (22 and 12 percent, respectively). But in Los Angeles, food insecure naturalized families receive benefits at a slightly lower rate (14 percent) than both legal and undocumented families (19 percent) (Table 2.17).(47)

 

Table 2.17.
Food Stamp Receipt among Food Insecure Non-Elderly Immigrant Families, by Citizenship and Legal Status

Citizenship and Legal Status*

Population (thousands) Food Stamp receipt during the previous year
Recipients (thousands) Share of population

Los Angeles County

All Immigrant Families

589 104 18%

Undocumented

184 35 19%

Legal

215 41 19%

Refugee

x x x

Naturalized

156 22 14%

New York City

All Immigrant Families

405 90 22%

Undocumented

78 9 12%

Legal

207 46 22%

Refugee

x x x

Naturalized

100 28 28%
Sample Size: 1157

* 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.
Notes: Food insecure families are those experiencing food insecurity with or without moderate during the year before the survey (Appendix 3). Non-elderly families are those with no members ages 65 or over. "x "denotes a small sample size.
Source: Urban Institute, LANYCIS

There is little pattern of variation in food stamp receipt by tenure in the United States, but LEP families are considerably more likely to receive benefits than proficient families in both cities. The difference in food stamps receipt between LEP and English proficient families is more striking in Los Angeles than in New York (Table 2.18).

 

Table 2.18.
Food Stamp Receipt among Food Insecure Non-Elderly Immigrant Families, by English Proficiency

English Proficiency*

Population (thousands) Food Stamp receipt during the previous year
Recipients (thousands) Share of population

Los Angeles County

All Immigrant Families

589 104 18%

English Proficient

112 7 6%

English Only

x x x

Very Well

80 7 8%

Limited English Proficient

467 96 21%

Well

146 29 20%

Not Well

233 48 21%

Not At All

88 19 22%

New York City

All Immigrant Families

405 90 22%

English Proficient

130 23 17%

English Only

x x x

Very Well

76 6 7%

Limited English Proficient

275 67 24%

Well

71 10 14%

Not Well

151 36 24%

Not At All

x x x

Sample Size: 1157

* 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).
Notes: Food insecure families are those experiencing food insecurity with or without moderate during the year before the survey (Appendix 3). Non-elderly families are those with no members ages 65 or over. "x "denotes a small sample size.
Source: Urban Institute, LANYCIS

There is a 4 percentage-point difference in food stamps receipt among families without elders (22 versus 18 percent) between New York and Los Angeles. Food insecure families with children but no elders, whether single- or two-parent, are almost as likely to receive benefits in Los Angeles as in New York (Table 2.19).

 

Table 2.19.
Food Stamp Receipt among Food Insecure Immigrant Families, by Family Composition

Family Composition*

Population (thousands) Food Stamp receipt during the previous year
Recipients (thousands) Share of population

Los Angeles County

Families without Elders

589 104 18%

Adult(s) without Children

272 13 5%

One Adult with Children

63 34 54%

Two or More Adults with Children

254 57 23%

New York City

Families without Elders

405 90 22%

Adult(s) without Children

202 24 12%

One Adult with Children

57 30 53%

Two or More Adults with Children

146 36 25%

Sample Size: 1288

* Children are under age 18. Working-age adults are ages 18 to 64, and elders are over age 64.
Notes: Food insecure families are those experiencing food insecurity with or without moderate during the year before the survey (Appendix 3).
"x "denotes a small sample size.
Source: Urban Institute, LANYCIS

English proficiency and family composition are the most important predictors of food stamp receipt, food insecurity and hunger, indicating that food stamps are reaching those families most in need. The odds of food stamp receipt are three times as high for LEP families as for proficient families when controlling for poverty, and almost five times as high when controlling for food insecurity or hunger. Odds are several times higher for each additional child or elder in the family and more than twice as high for families with one or zero working-age adults as for families with two or more working-age adults (Table 2.20).

 

Table 2.20.
Logistic Regression on Odds of Food Stamp Receipt during the Previous Year

Variable

Controlling for Poverty Level* Controlling for Food Insecurity** Controlling for Moderate Hunger**
Odds Ratio P-Value 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   1.000  

Legal

1.151 0.614 1.182 0.529 1.267 0.369

Refugee

1.880 0.139 1.881 0.133 2.030 0.069

Undocumented

0.793 0.382 0.934 0.788 0.939 0.808

In New York City

Naturalized

4.757 0.000 4.978 0.000 4.646 0.000

Legal

2.336 0.205 2.510 0.089 2.462 0.097

Refugee

18.104 0.160 22.393 0.079 21.104 0.212

Undocumented

2.138 0.046 2.238 0.032 2.658 0.023

Limited English Proficient (LEP) ****

3.083 0.000 4.647 0.000 4.986 0.000

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

1.151 0.422 1.128 0.478 1.082 0.634

Family Composition

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

2.414 0.000 2.544 0.000 2.587 0.000

Number of Children under 18 (vs. no children)

One Child

3.723 0.000 3.926 0.000 3.882 0.000

Two Children

7.995 0.000 8.395 0.000 8.934 0.000

Three Children

16.438 0.000 19.849 0.000 20.350 0.000

Four or More Children

18.470 0.000 22.187 0.000 24.533 0.000

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

One Elder

6.835 0.000 7.942 0.000 7.725 0.000

Two Elders

6.743 0.000 9.338 0.000 8.586 0.000

N

3363 3363 3363

Log likelihood

-841.8 -870.7 -887.6

Wald Chi-Square

396.5 356.5 318.7

Degrees of freedom

24 17 17
* Poverty level is controlled with a series of dummy variables for 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, and 2 times the federal poverty level
** 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

In New York City, refugee and naturalized families are more likely to receive food stamps than are other immigrant groups. In Los Angeles, refugees are most likely to receive food stamps, although the odds are only significantly higher in the moderate hunger model. All families are at least twice as likely to receive food stamps in New York than in Los Angeles, but the odds are much higher for naturalized families (almost five times) and for refugees (about 20 times).(48) Part of the explanation here is the inclusion of food stamp benefits along with SSI checks in Los Angeles, because many elderly refugees and naturalized citizens in New York receive both SSI and food stamps. Yet these models control for the presence of elders in the family, and so part of the explanation is also likely lower FSP participation in Los Angeles than in New York.

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