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Welfare Reform's Chilling Effects on Noncitizens: Changes in Noncitizen Welfare Recipiency or Shifts in Citizenship Status?

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In the mid-1990s, welfare usage declined disproportionately among noncitizens, prompting some policy analysts to argue that the 1996 Welfare Reform Act (PRWORA) had a “chilling” effect on welfare receipt among eligible non-citizens. However, naturalization among noncitizen welfare recipients could account for the disproportionate decline. This article evaluates the role of naturalizations in producing the so-called chilling effect. Methods.

The research uses longitudinal data (the Survey of Program Dynamics) to decompose changes in citizen and noncitizen welfare receipt into parts due to shifts in citizenship status and shifts in welfare receipt. Results.

A substantial portion of the relative decline in welfare usage among noncitizens can be explained by shifts in naturalization. Conclusions.

A more cautious interpretation of results about the effects of welfare reform on immigrants is called for, particularly results of analyses that use cross-sectional data and disaggregate the change in welfare receipt by citizenship status.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2003

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