Children of Refugees Receive More Food Stamps, Cash Assistance Than Native-Born Children

Refugee children fare better than other immigrant children on many indicators


Children born to refugees receive more government benefits like food stamps, cash assistance, and Supplemental Security Income than native-born children, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute.

"Young children of refugees are defined as those ages 10 and younger residing with at least one refugee parent," the report stated. "The total includes first-generation (foreign-born) children who are refugees themselves, and second-generation (U.S.-born) children with at least one refugee parent."

The report found that from 2009 to 2013, the latest five-year period for which data was available, 30 percent of children born to refugees received food stamps, compared to 27 percent of native-born children.

Eight percent of children born to refugees received cash assistance, compared to six percent of native-born children. Five percent of children born to refugees lived in households receiving Supplemental Security Income, while 4 percent of native-born children received the same.

"Children of refugees generally have better access to health coverage and public benefits than children of other immigrants," the report stated. "Refugees qualify for cash welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid or other public health insurance immediately upon arrival, and are often linked to these benefits by resettlement agencies."

A higher percentage of children born to refugees—93 percent—were covered for health insurance than the 90 percent of other immigrant children who were covered. Native-born children had the highest rate of coverage, with 95 percent having health insurance.

"Because of favorable eligibility rules, children of refugees participate in public benefit programs at higher rates than do other children of immigrants, even though children of refugees have a lower poverty rate," the report stated.

"Children of refugees fare better than children of other immigrants on almost all indicators—perhaps because refugee parents benefit from U.S.-government resettlement services while nonrefugee parents include unauthorized immigrants who face multiple barriers to socioeconomic integration and receipt of public benefits and services," the report stated. "Refugees’ children also fare as well or almost as well as children with U.S.- born parents on several indicators."

From 2009 to 2013, there were 941,000 children of refugee parents living in the United States who were 10 years or younger.

These children comprised 9 percent of all young children of immigrants and 2 percent of all young children in the United States.

"Most young children of refugees (89 percent) are U.S. born," the report stated. "The largest groups of children have parents from Vietnam (22 percent), Cuba (12 percent), Laos (6 percent), and Ukraine, Somalia, Haiti, and Russia (5 percent each)."

The State Department, which oversees refugee resettlement policy, did not respond to a request for comment.

Ali Meyer

Ali Meyer   Email Ali | Full Bio | RSS
Ali Meyer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon covering economic issues that expose government waste, fraud, and abuse. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was a multimedia reporter with where her work appeared on outlets such as Drudge Report and Fox News. She also interned with the Heritage Foundation and Pacific Research Institute. Her Twitter handle is @DJAliMeyer, and her email address is

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