Differences in Social Transfer Support and Poverty for Immigrant Families with Children: Lessons from the LIS

WCPC Seminar Series on Poverty and Policy: Winter 2009

Presented by Tim Smeeding
Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics and Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thursday, January 15, 2009  3:00 - 4:00 p.m., questions / discussion until 4:30 p.m.
Parrington Hall Commons, Room 308
University of Washington


Tim Smeeding is the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP).He is the founder and director emeritus of the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), which he began in 1983. He was awarded an honorary degree by Stockholm University for his work with the LIS in September, 2008. Smeeding is also co-editor of the Oxford University Press' forthcoming Handbook of Economic Inequality to be published in January 2009. Smeeding’s recent publications include Poor Kids in a Rich Country: America's Children in Comparative Perspective, co-authored with Lee Rainwater (Russell Sage Foundation, 2003), which is based on LIS data and places child poverty in the United States in an international context. The Future of the Family, co-edited by Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Lee Rainwater (Russell Sage Foundation, 2004; paperback ed., 2006), brings together the top scholars of family policy to take stock of the state of the family in the United States and address the ways in which public policy affects the family and vice versa. Immigration and the Transformation of Europe, co-edited with Craig Parsons (Cambridge University Press, 2006), examines a new kind of historic transformation underway in 21st-century Europe, in-flows of non-European people. His recent work has been on poverty amongst the children of immigrants in a cross-national context.


Social vulnerability due to insufficient income and earnings may come from many sources, both demographic and economic, in a globalizing world. Many believe these problems are most acute for immigrants, especially the children of immigrants. This paper examines poverty status and social transfer support for immigrant families with children in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe using the LIS (Luxembourg Income Study) database and some additional countries from the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) database. In this paper, we examine poverty status and social transfer support for immigrants and their children in 15 rich countries.
We construct relative measures of income poverty based definitions of income that both exclude and include government redistribution. These measures provide insight into relationship between redistribution, poverty, and immigrants-minorities in a cross-national perspective. In particular, our estimates of cross-nationally equivalent measures of poverty provide an opportunity to compare the design and effectiveness of the mix of immigration, social, and antipoverty policy in one nation with the experiences of other nations.
Our analysis reveals considerable cross-national variation in the degree of success and failure in alleviating poverty and inequality in the presence of shared pressures related to globalization, job instability and migration. In particular, we find that differences in poverty and income support vary much more by nation of destination than they do by immigrant and non-immigrant status. These results must be interpreted with care due to the uneven definitions of ‘immigrant’ and ‘minority’ across nations, but they suggest that national policy can and does make a difference in alleviating child poverty amongst immigrant and non immigrants alike.


See the slides from this presentation here.