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Immigration, Welfare Magnets and the Geography of Child Poverty in the United States

Publication Abstract

Frey, William H. 1997. "Immigration, Welfare Magnets and the Geography of Child Poverty in the United States." Population and Environment, 19(1): 53-86.

This study presents a detailed look at the immigration and internal migration dynamics of child poverty for US States based on the 1990 US census. It assesses the impact of two policy-relevant factors on the migration of poor children across States: (1) 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; and (2) the role of State AFDC benefits as a potential "pull" for poor children who migrate with their parents to States with higher benefit levels. 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 inter-state migration patterns than those in married-couple households. However, a multivariate analysis which includes standard state-level economic attributes provides more support for an "immigration push" than for a "welfare magnet pull" in affecting the inter-state migration of poor children. The findings also show a demographic displacement of poor children occurring 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 families with different demographic attributes. Because of these migration dynamics, the demographic profile of the child poverty population will differ across States, suggesting the need for different strategies toward reducing child poverty at the State level.

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