school education, and a range of government services that are provided to all residents regardless of age or need (for example, trash collection, public roads, and police and fire protection). Fiscal revenues include an assortment of tax payments, fees and licenses, and voluntary contributions made to governments by households. In recent years, knowledge of the fiscal impacts of immigrant households has taken on additional policy significance as numerous states have sued the federal government for the costs of services they are required by law to provide to resident illegal immigrants (Clark et al., 1994; U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994, 1995).1

Some studies of immigrants' fiscal impacts have been conducted by university researchers, but most have been prepared by analysts working for state or local governments.2 Census data suggest that immigrants were slightly less likely than natives in 1970 to receive cash welfare payments (for example, Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Supplemental Security Income), but that by 1990 immigrant households were overrepresented among the welfare population (Borjas, 1994). In 1990 the fraction of immigrant households receiving welfare was 9.1 percent versus 7.4 percent among native households. Tracking immigrant cohorts reveals that immigrants "assimilate into welfare" the longer they are in the United States. Using data from the 1984, 1985, 1990, and 1991 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, Borjas and Hilton (1996) found little difference between natives and immigrants in the probability of receiving cash welfare benefits, but a larger differential emerges when both cash and noncash means-tested programs are analyzed. For example, the fraction of immigrant households that receive some kind of public assistance is 21 percent compares with 14 percent among natives.

Part of the increase in the fraction of immigrant households receiving welfare is explained by growth in the refugee population. When refugees are excluded, Fix and Passel (1994) find that working-age migrants are less likely to receive welfare than their native-born counterparts, a conclusion that is consistent with Borjas's (1994) observation that households from Cambodia or Laos had a welfare participation rate in 1990 of almost 50 percent. Immigrants' legal status


During 1994 Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas filed suits in federal district courts to recover costs they claim they incurred because of the federal government's failure to enforce U.S. immigration policy, protect the nation's borders, and provide adequate resources for immigration emergencies (Dunlap and Morse, 1995). All six lawsuits sought compensation for the costs of imprisoning undocumented criminal aliens in state or local correctional facilities, and many included claims for public education, emergency health care, and other social services. The amounts involved ranged from $50 million in New Jersey for the 1993 costs of jailing 500 undocumented criminal felons and for future costs of new prison construction to more than $33 billion in the New York case which sought reimbursement of all state and county costs associated with illegal immigration between 1988 and 1993 (State and Local Coalition on Immigration, 1994). All six suits have been dismissed, but some states are appealing the decisions (Espenshade, 1996).


For comprehensive reviews, see Rothman and Espenshade (1992) and Vernez and McCarthy (1995, 1996).

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