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Immigration, Welfare Magnets, and the Redistribution of Child Poverty across U.S. States

Publication Abstract

Frey, William H. "Immigration, Welfare Magnets, and the Redistribution of Child Poverty across U.S. States." PSC Research Report No. 95-339. November 1995.

This study represents the first detailed look at the immigration and internal migration dynamics of child poverty for U.S. states based on the 1990 U.S. Census. The report and appendeix tables provide detailed statistics on the immigration and internal migration components of 1985-90 children's population change for indivdiual states, cross-tabulated by race, Latino status, and poverty status.

The analysis also assesses the impact of two policy-relevant factors on the migration of poor children across states. These are (1) the role of the state AFDC benefits as a potential "pull" for poor children who migrate with their parents to states with higher benefit levels; (2) the role of high immigration levels as a potential "push" for native-born and longer-term resident poor children whose parents may be reacting to the economic competition or social costs in high immigration states.

The results make plain that the interstate migration patterns of poverty children differ from those of nonpoverty children especially among whites and blacks. Female-headed households show different interstate migration patterns than those in married-couple households. However, a multivariate analysis that includes standard state-level economic attributes provides more support for an "immigration push" than for a "welfare magnet pull" in affecting the interstate migration of poor children.

The study suggests a demographic displacement of poor children in high immigration states where the net out-migration of poor children is more than compensated by larger numbers of new immigrant children in poor familes. Because of these migration dynamics, the demographic profile of the child poverty population will differ across states, suggesting the need for different strategies for reducing child poverty at the state level.

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