Are Immigrants Over-represented in the Australian Social Security System?

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This paper discusses the statistics that are commonly used to assess whether immigrants are more or less likely than people born in Australia to be receiving social security payments. The paper shows that many earlier discussions of this issue which have concluded that immigrants are substantially over-represented in the social security system have involved invalid comparisons. These have tended to systematically over-estimate the extent to which immigrants receive social security payments and under-estimate the level of social security receipt among the Australian-born population. The paper presents new estimates of receipt of social security payments in 1989 through a comparison of administrative data from the Department of Social Security and population estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The paper adjusts for the errors identified in earlier analysis of the issues. It is concluded that while a relatively small number of overseas birthplace groups do appear to be more likely to be receiving social security payments, the extent to which this occurs is much smaller than previously estimated. It is also concluded that most groups of immigrants appear to be less likely to be receiving social security payments than are people born in Australia.
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Whiteford, Peter
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