Welfare Reform and Elderly Immigrants' Naturalization: Access to Public Benefits as an Incentive for Naturalization in the United States

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Abstract

Welfare reform in the United States restricted non-citizens' eligibility for public assistance programs and strengthened economic benefits from naturalization. We examine the impact of these policy changes on elderly immigrants' naturalization, considering their level of need for public benefits. Using individual data from the Current Population Survey as well as state-level data, we employ a differences-in-differences approach to consider variations in time, state policy, and probability of Medicaid participation. Results show that naturalization significantly increased among elderly immigrants who were likely to participate in Medicaid, suggesting that elderly immigrants in need of Medicaid became naturalized to maintain their eligibility for public benefits after welfare reform.

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