Immigrant labor negatively affects natives' health insurance coverage

Research Activities, February 2010, No. 354

From 1995 to 2005, the percentage of immigrant workers in the U.S. labor force rose from 16 to 20 percent. This swell coincided with more U.S.-born males having reduced access to health insurance, a new study finds. In fact, a 10 percent increase in immigrant labor supply reduced native males' rates of insurance by about .6 percent.

This decline in natives' insurance rates is likely a result of employers opting not to offer health insurance for two reasons. Their immigrant employees do not want health insurance or they believe it is not worth the cost, according to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) researcher Yuriy Pylypchuk, Ph.D. He also suggests that when most workers desire employer-sponsored health insurance, the employer typically offers it. However, when a large portion of workers, such as immigrants, do not value the insurance benefit, the employer may forego offering it. This, in turn, has a detrimental effect on native workers who value insurance more than immigrants.

These results demonstrate that a population's preferences can adversely affect the Nation's insurance rates. Further, the question of why immigrants do not value health insurance is also worthy of additional exploration. The author used AHRQ's Medical Expenditures Panel Survey data for this study.

See "Effects of immigration on the health insurance status of natives," by Dr. Pylypchuk in the September 2009 Journal of Health Economics 28(5), pp. 1028-1037. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 10-R007) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Page last reviewed February 2010
Internet Citation: Immigrant labor negatively affects natives' health insurance coverage: Research Activities, February 2010, No. 354. February 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.