Study: Children of Immigrants Poorer
By SUZANNE GAMBOA
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Children of immigrants are more likely to live in two-parent families and in poverty than children of parents born in this country, according to an Urban Institute study released Tuesday.
The researchers, who analyzed data from the 1999 National Survey of Families, found that 80 percent of children of immigrants live in two-parent families, compared with 70 percent of children of native parents.
But children in two-parent immigrant families are twice as likely to be poor as children in two-parent, native families - 44 percent versus 22 percent respectively.
That raises questions about anti-poverty policies that promote marriage - such as those being discussed in welfare reform reauthorization debates - and their relevance for immigrant families, the researchers said.
``A lot of the policy that's been written around welfare reform and other issues has a particular profile of families in mind that is often a one-parent family,'' said Randy Capps, one of the study's authors.
One in five children in the United States is the child of an immigrant.
Congress will reconsider its landmark 1996 welfare overhaul next year, after failing to renew it this year before the 107th session adjourned. Republicans want to toughen the law's work requirements and add hundreds of millions of dollars to promote marriage.
A majority of children in immigrant families are U.S.-born, which qualifies them for federal assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Policies that center on promoting work also may not be applicable to immigrant families, because many parents are already working, Capps said.
Forty-three percent of children of immigrants live in low-income families with at least one full-time worker, compared with 26 percent of children of native parents. Eighteen percent of children of immigrants live in low-income families with two full-time workers, twice the percentage for children of native parents, the study said.
``These findings indicate that the presence of a second parent does not lift incomes in immigrant families to the same extent that it does in native families,'' the study said.
Low pay, rather than unemployment, accounts for income disparities between immigrant and native families, the researchers said.
``There are some policies in place which need to be protected in a tough budget climate,'' Capps said. ``One is the Earned Income Tax Credit,'' which offsets the tax liability of low-income workers.
Capps also said improvements in availability of health insurance, housing assistance and other benefits could help families of legal immigrants.
Mark Krikorian, director of the Center of Immigrant Studies, said immigrant poverty is the result of a mismatch of immigrants' skills and the needs of the U.S. economy.
``There is no need for additional unskilled labor,'' said Krikorian, whose center supports severe limits on immigration. ``We already have plenty of people in the work force who lack a high school education.''
On the Net:
Urban Institute: http://www.urban.org/
Center for Immigration Studies: http://www.cis.org/
11/26/02 00:23 EST
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