Characteristics of Mexican Immigrants by State

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This report has focused on the characteristics of Mexican immigrants at the national level. While legal immigration policy and the level of resources devoted to controlling illegal immigration are determined at the national level, the impact of immigration is felt at the local level. Table 8 reports selected characteristics for Mexican immigrants in the states with the largest Mexican-born populations. Turning first to citizenship rates, Table 8 shows that in every state with a large Mexican population, citizenship rates among Mexican immigrants are very low. The highest percentage is found in Texas, where 25 percent of Mexican immigrants are naturalized citizens. It should be noted that, as already discussed, nearly 40 percent of the Mexican-born population in the CPS are illegal aliens. This significantly reduces overall citizenship rates among Mexican immigrants. However, even if one removes illegals, it would still mean that fewer than one-half of legal Mexican immigrants have become citizens.

Poverty/Near Poverty by State. The rates of poverty/near poverty among Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under age 18) indicate that, in every state, Mexican immigrants have extremely high rates of poverty and near poverty. In every state but Illinois, the rate of poverty/near poverty associated with Mexicans is at least double the rate for natives. In a number of states, Mexican immigrants and their children by themselves make up a large share of the poor/near poor population. In Arizona, they comprise 25 percent of all those in or near poverty. In Texas, it is 19 percent and in California, Mexican immigrants and their young children account for 34 percent of all persons in or near poverty. The figures for California are striking because Mexican immigrants and their children account for 17 percent of the state’s total population.

Welfare Use and Insurance Coverage by State. Like those for poverty, the figures for welfare use are much higher among Mexican than native households in every state with the exception of Illinois. As a result of their high use rates, Mexican immigrant households account for a significant share of the welfare case load in a number of states. In California, almost one-fourth of all households in the state receiving welfare are headed by a Mexican immigrant. In Arizona, Mexican households account for 22 percent of all households using welfare and in Texas, 14 percent of households receiving welfare are headed by a Mexican immigrant. Turning to health insurance coverage, Table 8 indicates that, in every state, Mexican immigrants and their children are more than twice as likely as natives to be without health insurance. In some states, lack of health insurance among Mexican immigrants is more than triple that of natives. Not surprisingly, Mexican immigrants and their minor children make up a large percentage of the entire uninsured population in a number of states. In California, Mexican immigrants and their children comprise more than one-third of the uninsured. To a very significant degree, the health insurance crisis in California is being driven by immigration from Mexico. The same is true in Arizona, where 31 percent of the uninsured are either Mexican immigrants or the U.S.-born children of Mexican immigrants. Even in Colorado, where Mexican immigrants and their children account for less than 6 percent of the state’s entire population, they comprise more than one-fifth of the uninsured.

The findings in Table 8 indicate that Mexican immigration has dramatically increased the size of the low-income and uninsured populations as well as increased the overall welfare case load in several states. Clearly, the impact of Mexican immigration on the states is something that policy makers need to consider carefully. Table 8 indicates that failure to consider these effects has significant consequences for a number of states.