Means-Tested Safety Net Programs and Hispanic Families: Evidence from Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC

Marianne Bitler, Lisa A. Gennetian, Christina Gibson-Davis, Marcos A. Rangel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hispanic families have historically used means-tested assistance less than high-poverty peers, and one explanation for this may be that anti-immigrant politics and policies are a barrier to program participation. We document the participation of Hispanic children in three antipoverty programs by age and parental citizenship and the correlation of participation with state immigrant-based restrictions. Hispanic citizen children with citizen parents participate in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid more than Hispanic citizen children with noncitizen parents. Foreign-born Hispanic mothers use Medicaid less than their socioeconomic status would suggest. However, little evidence exists that child participation in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) varies by mother’s nativity: foreign-born mothers of Hispanic infants participate in WIC at higher rates than U.S.-born Hispanic mothers. State policies that restrict immigrant program use correlate to lower SNAP and Medicaid uptake among citizen children of foreign-born Hispanic mothers. WIC participation may be greater because it is delivered through nonprofit clinics, and WIC eligibility for immigrants is largely unrestricted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-305
Number of pages32
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Hispanic
  • Medicaid
  • SNAP
  • WIC
  • children
  • immigrant
  • race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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