42 Percent of Immigrant Households Used Medicaid in 2012, Vs. 23 Percent of Native-Born

The Center for Immigration Studies’ latest report concludes that 42 percent of immigrant households, both legal and illegal, used Medicaid in 2012. Only 23 percent of households headed by a native-born American used Medicaid.


The report also discusses other welfare, including housing, food stamps, et cetera. It is a very thorough report with a wealth of detail. For example, immigrant households from Latin America are more likely to claim welfare than the native-born, while immigrant households from Asia or Europe are less likely. However, when stratified by education or income, it appears that immigrants at the same level as the native-born are more dependent on welfare.

Medicaid is a serious burden on the nation’s prosperity, and if immigrants are a big factor that should certainly be a policy issue. Nevertheless, the report itself invites a number of questions for further inquiry.

Most importantly, the proportion of immigrants versus native-born “using” Medicaid or other welfare is less interesting than the dollar amount claimed by either group. For example, the so-called “Hispanic health paradox” is a poorly understood observation that people of Hispanic ethnicity are healthier than others in the same socio-economic group. So, the average immigrant dependent on Medicaid may cost taxpayers less than the average native-born.

Second, a household headed by an immigrant is not necessarily composed entirely of immigrants. The spouse or children may be native-born. It may not be possible to overcome this limitation of the data, but we should recognize it nevertheless.

Third, the immigrant dependent on Medicaid (or Obamacare) is caught in the same poverty trap as the native-born. Means testing for welfare and Obamacare results in high marginal income tax rates for anyone who strives to increase his household income. So, welfare as currently structured holds back both types of resident.

Finally, Medicaid and other welfare programs were not created by immigrants. They were created by politicians chosen by mostly native-born citizens. Stopping the growth of this welfare dependency is always available to those voters.


Comments (1)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    With the exception of emergency Medicaid, there is a 5-year waiting period before a legal immigrant becomes eligible for Medicaid. This may be true of other welfare programs as well. Of course, the children of immigrants born here do not face a waiting period.

    There is a reasonable argument for extending the waiting period even longer. Although most Americans agree there should be a safety net for people who are down on their luck, there is less agreement that the safety net should apply to people who chose to come here but lacked the skills or health to support their household.

    Immigration policy tends to favor uniting families of immigrants willing to work at wages lower than native born. It should focus on attracting immigrants who possess the most skills and can bring the most resources with them when they come.