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Restrictive state laws aimed at immigrants: Effects on enrollment in the food stamp program by U.S. citizen children in immigrant families

Sylvia E Twersky

PLOS ONE, 2019, vol. 14, issue 5, 1-18

Abstract: This paper examines whether a chilling effect of restrictive state laws aimed at immigrants creates a barrier to enrollment in the food stamp program (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) for U.S. citizen children in low-income immigrant families. This analysis looks at 20 states in the continental United States from 2000 to 2008 that were either at or above the U.S. average for percentage of foreign-born population, or states that ranked in the top 10 percent in terms of change in foreign-born population for that time period. To examine this issue, a multivariate, regression-based difference-in-differences (DD) analysis was applied. The “treatment” group is immigrant families with a U.S. citizen child that is 130% of the federal poverty level or below in states with restrictive immigrant related legislation and the “control” group is native families meeting the same federal poverty level guidelines as well as low-income immigrant families in states without the restrictive legislation. The research findings show that there does not appear to be a chilling effect associated with restrictive state laws on participation in the food stamp program. Food insecurity is an immediate need that may override the impediments to enrollment due to immigration status, causing families to apply despite a negative climate toward immigrants. For policy makers and immigrant advocates it is important to know where chilling effects might not occur in order to work with politicians and federal agencies on crafting sound evidence-based policy. Independent of any chilling effect, the model shows that immigrant families are less likely to enroll in food stamp benefits, consistent with other literature. In addition, independent of the effects of restrictive immigration legislation, both non-citizen and naturalized mothers were less likely to be in a family with food stamp benefits compared to similar native-born mothers. This indicates that all states have a gap in food stamp program enrollment that merits further attention and research.

Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215327

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