Trump administration proposes limiting green cards for those who took public benefits

Do immigrants use up more welfare? This data says there is no correlation.

Where can I find a scatter plot of welfare spending vs. immigrant rate?

Yet this data says immigrants use more welfare (42% vs 27% for natives), table 12, table 22.

https://cis.org/sites/cis.org/files/immigrant-profile_0.pdf

Use of Means-Tested Programs Welfare Programs by Household Head grouped by immigrant status

How can they both be true?

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    Just pointing out that the CIS isn't a neutral organization - they're in favor of lower immigration (as their tagline states, "low immigration, pro-immigrant"). – David Rice Sep 24 at 16:36
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    Would it be especially notable if they did, though? Going back to Trump's "sh--hole countries" complaint - Who is more likely to uproot and leave their country? People in a stable, economically comfortable situation or someone looking to escape misery and find opportunity elsewhere? One would expect new immigrants to be in a lower average economic strata, in general, than established "natives," and one would people well off are not qualified to collect welfare benefits. – PoloHoleSet Sep 24 at 17:06
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    They both can't be true. Anyway, the USA is mostly a country of immigrants - it might depend on how widely or how narrowly you decide who an immigant is. – Mozibur Ullah Sep 24 at 17:14
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    Since you're to just be trying to figure out which claim is true, your question might get better answers on the Skeptics SE site. – Giter Sep 24 at 17:50
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    I cannot believe that no one commenting nor any of the answers look at the obvious fallacy of the question. The linked article is about denying green cards to Illegal immigrants who have used public welfare. So of the group mentioned, 100% used public welfare because it is in the name. The conclusion that we are talking about a group of all immigrants and not just illegal immigrants shows that no one read the article. – Frank Cedeno Sep 24 at 19:14
up vote 33 down vote accepted

The two points are not incompatible; the first type of study says that immigrants aren't particularly attracted to countries/states with high welfare benefits, as opposed to (say) high salaries.

The second point says that immigrants tend to use more welfare compared to natives once in a country. Now, I don't know if the second (non-peer-reviewed) [CIS] study is correct on this point. But I'm just saying I don't see any contradiction with the first line of inquiry even if this second finding is true. (You may want to challenge the latter on Skeptics SE.)

Note that a CATO study finds the exact opposite of the CIS study

Overall, immigrants are less likely to consume welfare benefits and, when they do, they generally consume a lower dollar value of benefits than native-born Americans.

Good reasons to be skeptical of such think-tank publications (applies to CIS as well).

I don't have a lot interest in this topic, but on a quick evaluation, CATO uses dollar amounts and CIS the number of people who ever used welfare in some way (it seems). The former measure is probably less misleading.

Actually even using percentage of users (by category of benefits), CATO finds the immigrants use less.

enter image description here

That's a more substantive contradiction with the CIS study if that's you're looking for. With such politically motivated studies (both CIS and CATO's), one needs to read carefully the sampling, inclusion criteria etc., and I don't feel terribly inclined to do that now.


@John has posted a long profile/criticism of CIS; this bit is most relevant:

A September 2015 report by CIS asserted that "immigrant households receive 41 percent more federal welfare than households headed by native-born citizens."[68] The report was criticized on the basis of poor methodology by Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute. Nowrasteh said that the report opted not to examine how much welfare immigrants use, but to examine households led by an immigrant so that the report could count the welfare usage of the immigrant's US-born children, which leads to a misleading estimate of immigrant welfare use.

It turns out that the table snippet you have posted (which is from table 12) is actually titled "Table 12. Use of Means-Tested Programs by Household Head". So Nowrasteh's criticism is directly applicable to this table/snipped, even in the newer CIS report you have linked/quoted (which is dated Oct 2016). Nowrasteh turns out to be a co-author of CATO's own study on the matter, by the way.

Following the breadcrumbs here, Nowraseth has a more detailed explanation why counting by household gives an inflated use percentage (basically, immigrant families are larger than natives')

Another problem with counting households rather than individuals is that immigrants and natives have different sized households. According to the American Community Survey, immigrant households have on average 3.37 people in them compared to 2.5 people in native-born households. All else remaining equal, we should expect higher welfare use in immigrant households just because they’re larger. CIS should have corrected for household size by focusing on individual welfare use – which is included in the SIPP.

He also gets to an obvious issue I had remarked

The third issue with the CIS report is that they omitted the cash value of welfare benefits consumed by immigrant and native households. CIS only analyzed the use rates for each welfare program but they do not tell you how much welfare was actually consumed. [...] That CIS did not include any information on the monetary value of the benefits received, which is vital to understand the costs and benefits of various welfare programs not to mention fiscal cost estimates, is noteworthy.


@John Doe: yes the CATO study does include illegal immigrants; from its methodology section (page 2), which also helps explain the columns in the tables I quoted above:

We define natives or native-born Americans as those who are born in the United States, in its territories, or to citizen parents living abroad. Naturalized Americans are those born abroad who have since become naturalized U.S. citizens. Noncitizen immigrants are foreign-born people who are not citizens of the United States and who include green card holders, refugees, asylees, temporary migrants, guest workers, and illegal immigrants. Citizen children of citizen parents includes the children of both native-born Americans and naturalized immigrants. Citizen children of noncitizen parents are those who are born in the United States to foreign-born parents who have not naturalized. Noncitizen children have not naturalized.

As noted in several places, including the comments below the question and on page 1 of the CATO study [relevant bit quoted below], there are substantial restrictions in benefits that illegal (and legal) immigrants may claim in the US:

Temporary migrants are generally ineligible for welfare benefits. Lawful permanent residents must wait at least five years before they are eligible for means-tested welfare benefits, but states have the option of providing those benefits earlier from their own tax revenues. Illegal immigrants are ineligible for entitlement and means-tested welfare programs apart from emergency medical care. Naturalized citizens, U.S.-born children, refugees, and asylees are eligible for all entitlement and means-tested welfare programs. These rules have some exceptions: children of lawful permanent residents are eligible for SNAP benefits, and states can extend Medicaid benefits to children and pregnant women regardless of immigration status. Furthermore, in-kind benefits—such as the National School Lunch Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and Head Start—are available regardless of immigration status.

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    From the CATO study: "Illegal immigrants are ineligible for entitlement and means-tested welfare programs apart from emergency medical care." This leads me to believe that benefits used by illegal immigrants were not considered in the study, except possibly emergency medical services; can this be confirmed or denied? Without taking a look at the benefits consumed by illegal immigrants, I'm not sure how much value can be gained from the study, because the notion that illegal immigrants don't consume welfare benefits because they're ineligible is laughable. – John Doe Sep 24 at 22:23
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    @JohnDoe The following article lists the social programs that non-citizens are and are not eligible for. huffingtonpost.com/entry/… Laughing at a claim based on your previously held beliefs is not a substitute for research. – John Sep 25 at 2:38
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    @JohnDoe; The CATO study does count illegal immigrants. Often immigrants who are ineligible for benefits have dependent children who are. In that case, the CATO study spreads the benefit to the non-eligible adults living with them. This partially accounts for the dollar value and the number of recipients being lower. – Wes Sayeed Sep 25 at 3:15
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    @The_Sympathizer: as far as I can tell (and I'm no immigration law expert), what user4012 is talking about are rules/laws that prevent someone from gaining citizenship; they don't seem to prevent a naturalized citizen (for example) from accessing those benefits after naturalization. And the Trump administration seems to want to tighten the same rules, to extend the notion of "public charge" to some non-cash benefits like SNAP for one's children; this would further restrict who can naturalize... – Fizz Sep 25 at 9:14
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    @Fizz - correct. Basically, to gain immigration status, you promise your honest word that you won't become a burden on society. There's very little in the system to make sure you honor that promise once you get the status. – user4012 Sep 25 at 13:11

You should not trust the CIS claims as CIS is not a reliable source of fact. They are factually unreliable, use poor methodology, and have an anti-immigrant agenda. Taken together, you can expect that any given CIS report on immigration is likely to be dishonest.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_Immigration_Studies:

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is a non-profit organization "that favors far lower immigration numbers and produces research to further those views."
Several reports published by CIS have been disputed by scholars on immigration; a wide range of think tanks; fact-checkers such as PolitiFact, FactCheck.Org, Washington Post, Snopes, CNN and NBC News; and by immigration-research organizations; the organization has been cited by President Donald Trump on Twitter, and used by members of his administration.
Critics have accused CIS of promoting and having ties to nativists, which CIS denies.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published reports in 2002[32] and 2009[33] on John Tanton, who helped found CIS. Tanton is a retired Michigan ophthalmologist who opposed immigration on racial grounds, desired a white ethnic majority in the United States and advocated for eugenics.
FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA are all part of a network of restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the "puppeteer" of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots ... CIS was conceived by Tanton and began life as a program of FAIR. CIS presents itself as a scholarly think tank that produces serious immigration studies meant to serve "the broad national interest." But the reality is that CIS has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked, and it has frequently manipulated data to achieve the results it seeks.
According to CNN, Tanton openly embraced eugenics.[34] The New York Times noted that Tanton made his case against immigration in racial terms.[39] CIS has consequently been criticized for its reluctance to criticize Tanton and his views.
In 2004, a Wall Street Journal editorial repeated the SPLC's allegation that CIS is part of a network of organizations founded by Tanton and also charged that these organizations are "trying to stop immigration to the U.S." It quoted Chris Cannon, at the time a Republican U.S. Representative from Utah, as saying, "Tanton set up groups like CIS and FAIR to take an analytical approach to immigration from a Republican point of view so that they can give cover to Republicans who oppose immigration for other reasons."
The Center for Immigration Studies has been criticized for publishing reports deemed to be misleading and using poor methodology by scholars on immigration (such as the authors of the National Academies of Sciences 2016 report on immigration); think tanks such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Cato Institute,[47] Urban Institute[48] and Center for American Progress; fact-checkers such as FactCheck.Org, PolitiFact, Washington Post, Snopes and NBC News; and by immigration-research organizations (such as Migration Policy Institute and the Immigration Policy Center[49].
A March 2003 CIS report said that between 1996 and 2001 welfare use by immigrant headed households had increased and that "welfare use rates for immigrants and natives are essentially back to where they were in 1996 when welfare reform was passed." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said this was misleading because the U.S. children of noncitizens "account[ed] for all of the increase in Medicaid or SCHIP participation among U.S. citizens living in low-income households headed by noncitizens."
In March 2007, CIS issued a report saying that the "proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, compared to 19 percent for native households."[51] Wayne A. Cornelius of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UCSD, wrote that this was misleading because "once 'welfare usage' is disaggregated, as Camarota does in a table near the end of his report, we see that food assistance is the only category in which there is a significant difference between immigrant- and native-headed households. Immigrants are significantly less likely than natives to use Medicaid, and they use subsidized housing and cash assistance programs at about the same (low) rate as natives."[52]
In September 2011, CIS published a report Who Benefited from Job Growth In Texas? saying that, in the period 2007-2011, immigrants (legal and illegal) had taken 81% of newly created jobs in the state.[53] According to Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer for the Pew Hispanic Center, "there are lots of methodological problems with the CIS study, mainly having to do with the limitations of small sample sizes and the fact that the estimates are determined by taking differences of differences based on small sample sizes."[54] Chuck DeVore, a conservative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, criticized the report, saying that it "relied on flawed methodology".[55] CIS subsequently replied to DeVore's criticism.[56] The report was subsequently cited by Mitt Romney and David Frum. Politifact, when evaluating Frum and Romney's statements, noted that CIS's report "does acknowledge that 'no estimate of illegal immigration is exact'. But the methodological shortcomings also weaken the certainty of Romney’s statistic. On balance, we think that both the report’s authors and its critics have reasonable points. In the big picture, we agree with Chuck DeVore – a conservative critic of the study – that 'trying to draw conclusions about immigration and employment in Texas in isolation from other factors is problematic at best.' But we also agree with Mark Krikorian, the Center for Immigration Studies’ executive director, that 'even if DeVore prefers a net-to-net comparison, immigrants still got a disproportionate share of new jobs'."[54][57]
Norman Matloff, a UC Davis professor of computer science, wrote a report featured at CIS arguing that most H-1B visa workers, rather than being "the best and the brightest", are mostly of average talent.[58][59][60] James Shrek of the Heritage Foundation argued that Matloff's methodology was a "highly misleading measure of ability", as Matloff simply looked at the wages of the H-1B visa workers and how they compared to other workers in the sector.[61] Shrek notes that the existing data shows that H-1B workers are more skilled than the average American: "H-1B workers are highly educated. Almost half have an advanced degree. The median H-1B worker earns 90 percent more than the median U.S. worker. They are in no way average workers."[61] Matloff, in his reply, said that H-1B workers were not supposed to be compared to median workers and that Sherk's argument is "completely at odds with the claims the industry has made concerning the "best and brightest" issue" and that comparison to O-1 visa wage data showed that H-1B visas were being used by employers to undercut wages.
In May 2014, a CIS report said that in 2013 Immigration and Customs Enforcement had "freed 36,007 convicted criminal aliens from detention who were awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings... [and t]he vast majority of these releases from ICE custody were discretionary, not required by law (in fact, in some instances, apparently contrary to law), nor the result of local sanctuary policies."[63] An ICE spokesman said that many such releases were required by law, for instance when a detainee's home country refuses to accept them or required by a judge's order.[64] Caitlin Dickson, writing in the Daily Beast said that ICE had "highlighted key points that CIS failed to address".[65] Associated Press, however, when reporting on CIS's figures, said that "the releases that weren't mandated by law, including [the] 28 percent of the immigrants with homicide convictions, undermines the government's argument that it uses its declining resources for immigration enforcement to find and jail serious criminal immigrants who may pose a threat to public safety or national security."[66] CIS's report was criticized by the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council who said that "looking at this group of people as an undifferentiated whole doesn’t tell you much about who poses a risk to public safety and who does not."[65] Muzaffar Chishti, the New York director of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said that the CIS report was "a select presentation of a set of facts without any comparative analysis that can lead to misleading conclusions."[65] According to CBS, Gregory Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the report had “a lot of misleading information” and "that the report's definition of criminals who have been 'released' includes those who are still subject to supervision including electronic ankle monitoring and regular check ins with ICE."
A September 2015 report by CIS asserted that "immigrant households receive 41 percent more federal welfare than households headed by native-born citizens."[68] The report was criticized on the basis of poor methodology by Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute. Nowrasteh said that the report opted not to examine how much welfare immigrants use, but to examine households led by an immigrant so that the report could count the welfare usage of the immigrant's US-born children, which leads to a misleading estimate of immigrant welfare use.
A February 2017 CIS report said that "72 individuals from the seven countries covered in President Trump's vetting executive order have been convicted in terror cases since the 9/11 attacks," an assertion that several fact-checking agencies debunked.[69][70] Stephen Miller, a senior White House policy adviser, used the data provided by CIS to justify President Trump's 90-day travel ban, earning him "Three Pinocchois" from the Washington Post Fact-Checker (its second-worst rating).[69][71] FactCheck.Org found that most (44 of the 72) had not been convicted on terrorism charges, and that none of the 72 people were responsible for a terrorism-related death in the US, and Snopes mirrored the assessment.
In March 2018, the Trump administration claimed that construction on a Mexico border wall would pay for itself by keeping undocumented immigrants out of the United States, citing a CIS report.[72] The CIS report was based on data from the 2016 National Academies of Science (NAS) report.[72] However, several of the authors of the NAS report said that CIS misused the data from the report, made unjustifiable methodological decisions, and that it was likelier that keeping undocumented immigrants out would reduce government revenue.[72][73] The 18-member panel of economists, sociologists, demographers and public policy experts, and chosen by the National Academies of Science, concluded that undocumented immigrants had a net positive fiscal impact.

This article addresses utilization of social programs by non-citizens.
It links to an article from the Cato institute titled CIS Exaggerates the Cost of Immigrant Welfare Use. It directly addresses the misleading methodology of the immigrant report that the original poster is asking about.

The vast majority of new immigrants are not eligible for welfare. Even green card holders must wait for years to get most benefits. The United States already rejects applications from potential immigrants who could end up on government assistance — people who aren't financially stable can't even get tourist visas. And research shows that poor, uneducated immigrants are the least likely group to use welfare.
Even green card holders, who are permanent residents of the US, have to wait five years to qualify for nearly all social welfare programs. There are a few exceptions, including immigrants who served in the US military or are disabled.
As part of the process, USCIS staff must determine whether or not a green card applicant will become a public charge — someone who is primarily dependent on the government to survive. If they are considered likely to become a public charge, they will be denied a green card.
Whoever petitions for the visa has to report their own income and assets. If the amount isn't enough to keep the family out of poverty, the petition will be rejected.

A 2015 report by the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for limited immigration, concluded that 50 percent of immigrant-led households used at least one public benefit, compared to 30 percent of American-led households.

But as researchers at the libertarian Cato Institute point out, the main reason for the difference is that immigrant households tend to be larger than American households, and are therefore more likely to have children, including American-born children who are eligible for some benefits.

To get a more accurate picture of welfare use, researchers need to compare individuals, not households. Using the same data, Cato researchers controlled for education levels, family size and income to see whether immigrants were more likely to use welfare benefits than non-immigrants in similar scenarios.

Their results were more nuanced. Overall, poor immigrant households use less welfare than poor American households. Broken down by race, Latino and black immigrant households "massively underconsume" welfare compared to their American counterparts. White and Asian immigrant households, on the other hand, consume more welfare than their American counterparts.

Here is another article addressing which social benefits non-citizens are eligible for.

Here’s a listing of benefits undocumented immigrants expressly do not receive: Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP)
Disability, aka Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Food stamps, aka The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Health insurance, aka insurance via the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Medicaid
Medicare
Social Security
Welfare

Here’s what undocumented immigrants may be eligible for: Emergency medical care, including ER visits and Emergency Medicaid
Schooling
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

In reality, immigrants typically pay far more in taxes than they receive in benefits. And that includes undocumented immigrants. Makes sense. Not only do they simply not qualify for many benefits, but undocumented immigrants also tend to keep a low profile and may not seek benefits they possibly could legitimately receive as a result. However, every year millions of undocumented immigrants not only do pay taxes, they even file their tax returns.
According to a 2010 report by the American Immigration Council, undocumented immigrants pay as much as $90 billion in taxes but receive just $5 billion in benefits. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated that in 2010 undocumented immigrants paid as much as $10.6 billion in state and local taxes alone.
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    This answer, stating that the CIS is an unreliable source, mentions the fact that it’s cited by Trump. Logically speaking, is being cited by Trump evidence of an organisation being an unreliable source? – Andrew Grimm Sep 24 at 22:00
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    I'm sorry, but this answer is a pure ad-hominem argument. It does not refute the claim, it just discredits the source. Just because a source is untrustworthy does not automatically mean everything it says is wrong. If their statement is really incorrect, then you should be able to find data from a more objective and trustworthy source to refute their claim. – Philipp Sep 24 at 22:24
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    This is not an ad hominem attack. If you cited a reliable source like The New York Times, BBC, NPR, PBS, etc. and I attacked you personally, that would be ad hominem. But if the source you cited was some compulsive liar on the street, then your argument never had legs to begin with. If the source you cited was random youtube comment, it never had legs. An argument should begin from reliable facts, reliable primary sources like the CIA world factbook, reliable secondary sources in the form of honest journalism and honest encyclopedia publications. You are misunderstanding ad hominem. – John Sep 24 at 22:36
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    If having an openly "anti-immigration agenda" alone makes a source unreliable, then doesn't having an openly "pro-immigration agenda" also make sources unreliable? This answer seems to be the classical "the source disagrees with my opinion, so it is false, let me show a source which agrees with my opinion and therefore is true". – vsz Sep 25 at 4:14
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    Did you really need to copy/paste the entire criticism section of the Wiki article? – eyeballfrog Sep 25 at 22:11

This question is more complicated than just finding correlated data-sets. Let's unpack this.

  1. First, for background, the concept that immigrants aren't supposed to be - using technical immigration term, "public charges" - has always been a part of US immigration law and philosophy.

    Leaving aside some rare exceptions (e.g. refugees), any legal immigrant is required to NOT be a public charge, and moreover, any application for immigrant visa - or Green Card - requires you to prove that they can support themselves or have a family member who will (so-called "Affidavit of Support").

    The only difference is that previously, INS (or USIC now) did not consider "non-cash" benefits to be part of "public charge" technical definition. One can argue as to the the causes, or the pros and cons of this distinction. But it is irrefutable that both in terms of finance (budget, outlays, spending) as well as in terms of political philosophy ("are you a financial burden on society or not"), this technical distinction of whether the public support one receives is "cash" or "non-cash" is rather academic and artificial (as the Democrats rightfully pointed out when that same academic artificial distinction was being argued over in late 20th century in context of taxing executive stock options).

  2. Second, in theory, legal non-refugee immigrants shouldn't use up any welfare.

    According to current immigration law, you shouldn't even be admitted into the country or granted a visa, unless you prove to immigration officer that you would not become a public charge:

    You are inadmissible or ineligible to adjust status on public charge grounds if, after consideration of your case in light of all of the minimum factors in section 212(a)(4)(B) of the Act, any Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) filed on your behalf under 8 CFR part 213a, and any other facts that may be relevant, the immigration officer, consular officer, or immigration judge determines that it is likely that you will become primarily dependent for your subsistence on the Government, at any time

    (\ fr \ Federal Register Publications (CIS, ICE, CBP) \ Federal Register Publications (Legacy INS) - 1999 \ FEDERAL REGISTER PROPOSED REGULATIONS - 1999 \ Inadmissibility and Deportability on Public Charge Grounds [64 FR 28676] [FR 26-99] \ § 212.102 What is the meaning of "public charge" for admissibility and adjustment of status purposes?)

    In other words, if you are in the country legally, and on public assistance, either you are one of a small handful of unlucky people who were able to support themselves when entering and then fell off the wagon (e.g. had large medical bills), or, far more likely, you entered the country under the false pretenses, pretending that you can avoid becoming a burden on taxpayers when you had no way to do so.

In other words, both the question's premise (that the immigrant rate of welfare use should in any way shape or form correlate to non-immigrant, whereas it should be near zero by comparison); or its use in public policy debate, is incorrect on immigration policy rules grounds.

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    You've explained what the law is. Is that what happens in practice, or is the law not being enforced properly? And if it's not being enforced, how is the premise "incorrect"? – jpmc26 Sep 24 at 19:57
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    @jpmc26 - anecdotally based on people I know personally, tons of people flat out lie and pretend they can support themselves when they can't. – user4012 Sep 24 at 20:46
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    As a potential immigrant myself, and currently legally resident on a visa, either I'm too honest or too dumb to figure out how I could benefit from welfare. It's simply not possible for me to claim any benefit from Medicaid, Social Security, or anything else (even though I'm paying into them all with every paycheck). My impression is that people like me are far more likely to be paying into the welfare system than getting anything out. – brhans Sep 25 at 2:26
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    @brhans - your impressions are wrong. "Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP or to purchase coverage through the ACA Marketplaces. However, Medicaid payments for emergency services may be made on behalf of individuals who are otherwise eligible for Medicaid but for their immigration status. These payments cover costs for emergency care for lawfully present immigrants who remain ineligible for Medicaid as well as undocumented immigrants." .... – user4012 Sep 25 at 13:02
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    ... " Since 2002, states have had the option to provide prenatal care to women regardless of immigration status by extending CHIP coverage to the unborn child." from pro-illegal-immigration Kaiser Foundation (kff.org/disparities-policy/fact-sheet/…) – user4012 Sep 25 at 13:08
  1. In general:

    Given the exact same input data, two different statistical summaries can't both be true if they're using the exact same statistical methods.

    However, if the two summaries use different statistical methods, then both can be true. It's just the nouns and verbs in the summaries are being used in different senses, i.e.. the noun "average" might signify a mean average, a mode average, or a median average. Or the stats might use distinctly different methods of curve-fitting.

    Usually the authors of most stats are good enough to include some fine print below their figures and graphs which clarify such distinctions. Unfortunately, mass media sources love to report stats, but leave out that fine print, and needlessly excite people with alarming headlines.

  2. Specific to the CIS profile by Camarota and Zeigler, versus the IZA "Welfare Magnet" debunking by Giulietti:

    They aren't counting the same things:

    • Giulietti is counting unemployment benefits spending.
    • Camarota and Zeigler are counting usage of any of several poverty-based benefit programs:

      In 2014, 42 percent of immigrant-headed households used at least one welfare program (primarily food assistance and Medicaid), compared to 27 percent for natives. ...

      Welfare Use. ... The definition of programs is as follows: cash assistance: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF),
      state-administered general assistance, and Supplemental Security
      Income (SSI), which is for low-income elderly and disabled persons; food assistance: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP,
      informally know as food stamps), free and subsidized school lunch,
      and the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC); housing assistance: subsidized and government-owned housing. The table also shows figures for Medicaid use, the health insurance program for those with low incomes.

    Usage and spending are different things. It's like the difference between 25 party guests being served an hors d'oeuvre platter, versus having 15 people over for dinner. Either way, the guests were fed something, but the party guests didn't eat as much (or cost as much) as the dinner guests. And guests who just ate food didn't cost half as much as the drinkers who were the most expensive guests of all.

    Camarota and Zeigler's broad categories set a low bar. The current average value of unemployment benefits, for those who qualify, is about $1K/mo.; the average value of SNAP benefits (food stamps) is about $126/mo. The average value for school lunch benefits is presumably less than a third of that. For C. & Z. being on one of those programs, (say the one with the least benefits), counts the same as being on all of them. (But being on all of them is atypical. More usually families or persons qualify for some programs, but not others.)

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    This doesn't really answer the question though? It seems more of a commentary. – Martin Tournoij Sep 24 at 20:08
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    Can you show us how flawed statistical interpretations of the data give a false impression in this particular case stated in the question? – Philipp Sep 24 at 22:29

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