Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 129-150

First online:

Welfare Use Among Older Hispanic Immigrants: The Effect of State and Federal Policy

  • Kerstin GerstAffiliated withSealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical Branch Email author 
  • , Jeffrey A. BurrAffiliated withDepartment of Gerontology, University of Massachusetts Boston

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This study examines the effect of state and federal welfare policy changes on the use of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) among older Hispanic immigrants in the US. The results contribute to the ongoing debate about whether the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 had a “chilling effect” on welfare use. Using data from the 1990 and 2000 US Censuses of Population, we use multi-level binomial logistic regression to evaluate whether state levels of welfare generosity contribute to the probability of SSI use among eligible older Hispanics. Our results show that the decline in SSI receipt between 1990 and 2000 is greater among older Hispanic non-citizens from Mexico, Central and South America as compared to their naturalized and US-born Hispanic counterparts. We also demonstrate that state differences in welfare generosity did not moderate the effect of federal policies during this time period as was expected.


Welfare reform Hispanic elders Immigrants Supplemental Security Income