Material Hardship Among Immigrants in the United States: Variation by Citizenship, Legal Status, and Origin in the 1996–2008 SIPP

Abstract

Previous literature has explored different dimensions of immigrant incorporation; however, no extant literature describes the extent to which migration status is associated with a comprehensive set of material hardship dimensions. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) spanning more than a decade (1996–2008), we assess material hardship among the foreign-born by migration status, a unique contribution of this data. Trends over the study period reflect the persistent migration status gradient in material hardship. Multivariate models point to three important findings. First, unauthorized and legally resident non-citizens had significantly increased odds of hardship compared to the naturalized. Second, the magnitude of the migration status-hardship association varied depending on hardship with naturalized citizens generally having lower odds of each form of hardship than unauthorized and legally resident non-citizens. Finally, patterns of material hardship by US duration were not uniform. For example, for utility hardships, the unauthorized with 10 or more years of US duration have higher predicted probabilities than unauthorized of shorter durations. The results highlight the challenges of the immigrant experience in America for recent arrivals, the unauthorized, for legal immigrants, and immigrants who have resided in the US for more than 10 years.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses the terms immigrant and non-immigrant to distinguish visa types based on the purpose of travel and intention to reside in the US permanently.

  2. 2.

    It is important to note that legally naturalized citizens can be deported, though rare.

  3. 3.

    Unauthorized immigrants are eligible for a limited number of social programs often in select US states such as emergency medical services reimbursed through Medicaid, The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). Additionally, there are some social programs with shorter waiting periods such as CHIPRA.

  4. 4.

    Rent burden is typically defined as a household spending more than 30% of their income on rent.

  5. 5.

    The 2014 SIPP panel was not included in the analysis because of changes to the survey design and questions about visa status and adjustment. Specifically, the redesigned 2014 SIPP excluded a crucial question that allows analysts to distinguish between immigrants entering country without a green card who subsequently adjusted to LPR status, and those that did not.

  6. 6.

    Questions about material hardship were asked during both Waves 6 and 9 of the 2008 SIPP panel, the only panel asked twice. The majority of our foreign-born sample answered both waves; therefore, we use only one report per respondent to avoid double counting respondents. For instance, if the respondent answered both Waves 6 and 9, we use Wave 6 answers. If they only answered Wave 6 or Wave 9, we use that record instead. Models that included both reports produced substantively similar results.

  7. 7.

    For our purposes “foreign-born” is defined as foreign-born persons who are not US citizens by birth (i.e., born abroad to US citizen parents). We do not classify foreign-born persons adopted by US citizen parents as foreign-born.

  8. 8.

    Reassigning people from the “other” to the “LNI” group is most likely to impact non-Latino immigrants.

    Specifically, Passel’s algorithm only identifies persons holding an actual temporary visa (e.g., H1B, H2A, F, M, etc.). Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protection is not a visa and therefore persons with TPS fall into the unauthorized category using our definition.

  9. 9.

    While it would be revealing to disaggregate regions into specific countries of origin, the SIPP restricts detailed origin information in the public-use files.

  10. 10.

    We note that the portion of the foreign-born classified as unauthorized is lower in our sample compared to other national estimates. We conducted sensitivity analysis and uncovered several explanations. First, the percentage is an average across more than a decade and thereby conceals the range. Second, the descriptive statistics are calculated after the waves for each respective panel are merged and thus influenced by panel attrition. Unauthorized immigrants are likely the least settled population and therefore more likely to experience panel attrition. Third, the SIPP likely undercounts the unauthorized, and perhaps at a higher rate than other national surveys like the American Community Survey or the Census. (Bachmeier et al. 2014; Van Hook et al. 2014).

  11. 11.

    Supplementary analyses noted on Tables 46, test the difference between migration status groups. On Table 4, overall few of the group differences are statistically significant, but there are noteworthy group differences for food insecurity. A similar pattern is found on Table 5 among Latin American immigrants for food insecurity.

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Table 7 Migration status groups

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Altman, C.E., Heflin, C.M., Jun, C. et al. Material Hardship Among Immigrants in the United States: Variation by Citizenship, Legal Status, and Origin in the 1996–2008 SIPP. Popul Res Policy Rev (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-020-09588-6

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Keywords

  • SIPP
  • Material hardship
  • Immigration
  • Legal status
  • US duration