“Schrodinger’s Immigrant” Is No Paradox: Welfare and Work Go Together in Today’s America

the American welfare system has become increasingly focused on buttressing low-wage workers rather than supporting non-workers. Put more simply, welfare and low-wage work go together. Just as natives with low levels of education and large numbers of children are apt to consume welfare, immigrants with those same characteristics are also likely to be on welfare. A strong work ethic does not change this reality.

To repeat, immigrant-headed households consume more welfare than native households not because they don’t work, but because they have fewer skills on average and, as a consequence, have lower earnings. As long as we pursue a policy that encourages low-skill immigration, many more “Schrodinger Immigrants” will come across our borders.