JSIT19-04: Financial Security and Immigrants’ Legal Status: An Analysis of Net Worth in the United States


  • Josefina Flores Morales


Immigration status bears heavily on aspects of everyday life many citizens take for granted, such as the ability to build financial security, including wealth. Using the Survey of Income and Program Participation waves for 1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008, this study provides novel insights into immigrant wealth. First, this study provides national descriptive statistics about differences in levels of wealth between individuals who have different immigration status. Second, this study examines the extent to which immigrants’ legal status contributes to wealth inequality between racial-ethnic groups. In particular, I assess the extent to which having an undocumented or precarious immigration status accounts for differences in household wealth between white individuals and Black, Asian, and Latinx individuals. Third, this study shows differences in the relationship between age and wealth by immigration status. Findings show that immigration status accounts for different proportions of the wealth gap within each racial-ethnic group. For instance, immigration status accounts for a substantial portion of the wealth gap in Latinx and Asian communities. Second, this study finds that while age and wealth tend to be correlated for individuals with legal status, this trend is less strong among immigrants who are undocumented or have precarious legal status. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.


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JSIT19-04: Financial Security and Immigrants’ Legal Status

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