Differences between immigrant and native households in rates of welfare receipt depend on nativity differences in individual-level rates of receipt, in household size, in mean number of recipients in receiving households, and in household nativity composition. We present algebraic derivations of these relationships and use data from the 1990 and 1991 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine empirically the extent to which levels of welfare receipt for immigrants and natives are sensitive to the use of household-, family-, or individual-level units of analysis or presentation. The findings show that nativity differences are statistically significant only at the level of larger units. The results also indicate that if immigrants and natives had identical living arrangements, immigrants’ household-level receipt of Supplemental Security Income would significantly exceed natives’ receipt even more than it actually does, but the nativity difference in receipt of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) would reverse directions. Moreover, the level of AFDC receipt of immigrant households falls significantly below that of native households when native-born children living in households headed by immigrants are treated as if they were foreign born.

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