, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 111–120

Public assistance receipt among immigrants and natives: How the unit of analysis affects research findings

  • Jennifer Van Hook
  • Jennifer E. Glick
  • Frank D. Bean
Racial and ethnic inequality

DOI: 10.2307/2648137

Cite this article as:
Van Hook, J., Glick, J.E. & Bean, F.D. Demography (1999) 36: 111. doi:10.2307/2648137


Differences between immigrant and native households in rates of welfare receipt depend on nativity differences in individual-level rates of receipt, in household size, in mean number of recipients in receiving households, and in household nativity composition. We present algebraic derivations of these relationships and use data from the 1990 and 1991 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine empirically the extent to which levels of welfare receipt for immigrants and natives are sensitive to the use of household-, family-, or individual-level units of analysis or presentation. The findings show that nativity differences are statistically significant only at the level of larger units. The results also indicate that if immigrants and natives had identical living arrangements, immigrants’ household-level receipt of Supplemental Security Income would significantly exceed natives’ receipt even more than it actually does, but the nativity difference in receipt of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) would reverse directions. Moreover, the level of AFDC receipt of immigrant households falls significantly below that of native households when native-born children living in households headed by immigrants are treated as if they were foreign born.

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Van Hook
    • 1
  • Jennifer E. Glick
    • 2
  • Frank D. Bean
    • 3
  1. 1.The Urban InstituteNW
  2. 2.Department of SociologyBrown UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Population Research CenterUniversity of Texas at AustinUSA

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