Food stamp program participation of refugees and immigrants

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) dramatically changed the availability of food stamps to immigrants, but not to refugees. However, refugee usage of food stamps in the post-reform era has declined more than usage of either other immigrants or native citizens. We investigate food stamp program participation of immigrants and refugees to ascertain if the resulting decline was an unintended effect of the reform or is due to some other phenomena. We use data from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to construct an instrument for refugees. We find that refugees are more likely than other immigrants to use food stamps. While PRWORA clearly reduced non-refugee immigrant food stamp participation, the post-reform era decline in refugee usage is fully attributable to a strong refugee response to changing labor market conditions. We also find that refugees' use of food stamps declines rapidly with time in the United States, unlike that of other immigrants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-692
Number of pages28
JournalSouthern Economic Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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