Get access

Immigration and the Evolving American Welfare State: Examining Policies in the U.S. States


  • Rodney E. Hero is professor of political science, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 ( Robert R. Preuhs is lecturer of political science, University of Colorado-Boulder, Campus Box 333, Boulder, CO 80309-0333 (

  • Support for this research came in part from the University of Colorado's Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS).


The inclusion of racial/ethnic minorities is often considered an important factor leading to a relatively limited American welfare system. However, given the federal nature of welfare eligibility rules and the states' role in determining benefit levels, few studies explicitly link questions of inclusion and benefit levels when explaining the evolution of American welfare policy. This study examines the relationship between inclusion and benefit levels by analyzing state policies related to the welfare reforms of 1996 which allowed states to decide if recent immigrants would be included in welfare benefits, and subsequently the extent to which this decision affected overall benefit levels offered by states under TANF. The results suggest that states' decisions regarding inclusion subsequently affect benefit levels, with the direction of these relationships most closely reflecting the erosion model's prediction of broader eligibility associated with lower benefit levels.