One in Seven Adults in Immigrant Families Reported Avoiding Public Benefit Programs in 2018

Hamutal Bernstein, Dulce Gonzalez, Michael Karpman & Stephen Zuckerman
Date of Publication: 
May, 2019
Source Organization: 
Urban Institute

This paper presents the results of an internet-based survey that attempted to measure the potential effects of changes in the Public Charge rule that would make it harder for immigrants to obtain permanent residency. Survey respondents self-reported the degree to which the rule change produced a “chilling effect” that discouraged them or their family members from utilizing certain public benefits for which they were otherwise eligible. The authors provide a short history of the Public Charge rule and detail the legal implications of the changes before reporting on the results of the survey. They found that twice as many adults living with children reported a chilling effect compared to those living without children (17.4 percent to 8.9 percent respectively), suggesting that although the rule change is focused on adults it will have a multigenerational effect. Additionally, a larger percentage of Hispanic adults reported this chilling effect (20.6 percent) than non-Hispanic white (8.5 percent) and non-Hispanic nonwhite immigrants (6.0 percent). There was also an association between income level and the chilling effect, as immigrants with lower incomes felt the effect more drastically. Taken together, the authors are concerned that those who are most vulnerable will be more likely to refrain from accessing services and supports so as not to jeopardize their ability to receive permanent residency in the future. They suggest that the proposed rule will lead to negative long-term effects for these immigrant adults, their children and the community as a whole. (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

Download now or view online.


Bernstein, H., Gonzalez, D., Karpman, M. & Zuckerman, S. (2019). One in Seven Adults in Immigrant Families Reported Avoiding Public Benefit Programs in 2018. The Urban Institute. Retrieved from