Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Roger A. Wojtkiewicz


Immigration flows into the United States have changed over the last few decades. Before the 1960s, immigrants came mainly from European countries. Since the 1960s, immigrants coming from third world countries have increased while those from European countries have relatively decreased. This changing immigration pattern has sparked passionate debate over immigration policy and its role in adding members to welfare recipient rolls. Researchers have not come to an agreement on how to best examine immigrant welfare receipt. There is disagreement about immigrant status definitions, unit of analysis choices, and welfare measurements. These theoretical and methodological choices influence research results and, consequently, policy recommendations. I address each of these analytical elements in my dissertation. Using the 1990 Public Use Microdata-Labor Market data (PUMS-L), I argue for an examination of a family based unit of analysis, separation of AFDC and SSI components of a combined Census welfare variable, and application of finer immigrant family type distinctions. Furthermore, applying these methodological procedures, I extend previous research by showing how migrant characteristics, defined as immigrants' country of origin, period of entry, and English speaking ability, are related to AFDC and SSI receipt. My estimates provide evidence for the validity of these migrant characteristics as predictors of AFDC and SSI receipt. However, my results uncover complexities of this relationship. These complexities became illuminated as a direct result of my methodological procedures. It is true that a crude look at immigrants demonstrates that those from less developed countries receive AFDC and SSI more than do United States natives. However, once refugee status is included in the equation, this no longer holds. Once refugee status is included in the equation, immigrants from less developed countries of Europe and Asia do not receive significantly more AFDC than United States natives. My dissertation shows that immigrant AFDC and SSI receipt is not due to poor skills of immigrants but to of U.S. congressional policies providing welfare eligibility for refugees.