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57 Soc. Sec. Bull. 37 (1994)
Social Security and the Emigration of Immigrants

handle is hein.journals/ssbul57 and id is 39 raw text is: Social Security and the Emigration of Immigrants
by Harriet Orcutt Duleep*
Each year the Social Security Administration forecasts the financial sta-
tus of the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs
by projecting trends in key variables such as the labor-force participation
and earnings of the U. S. population. In the difficult task of projecting the
long-term financial status of Social Security, assumptions are made concern-
ing the relationship of immigrants to Social Security. An important aspect
of that relationship is the emigration of immigrants.
This article describes the general assumptions related to the level and
timing of emigration that underlie projections of Social Security's financial
status and examines how closely these assumptions fit research findings
based on a variety of data sources. Previous trends in emigration and factors
that may affect current and future levels of emigration are described. The
article also presents theoretical expectations and empirical evidence con-
cerning the timing of emigration.
*This work has been done in the author's capacity as a visiting scholar to the
Division of Economic Research, Office of Research and Statistics of the Social Se-
curity Administration. The author is a senior research associate of the Urban Insti-
tute, Washington, DC. Correspondence should be addressed to Harriet Duleep in
care of the Social Security Bulletin, Room 205, Van Ness Center,
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20008.

Over the past decade, more than a third
of the Nation's population growth was due
to immigration. This influx of new immi-
grants will have a profound effect on So-
cial Security by affecting the size and
composition of the population contributing
to and benefiting from the Old-Age, Survi-
vors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI)
program. The extent to which immigration
influences the Social Security system is
affected by the emigration of immigrants.
Emigration affects how many immigrants
contribute to the system, how long immi-
grants contribute to the system, and
whether immigrants are eventually eligible
for Social Security benefits. Although
reasonably good estimates of the number
of legal immigrants are available on an
annual basis from the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS), little is
known about emigration, other than that
the vast majority of emigrants are immi-
grants. This lack of information led the
1991 Advisory Council on Social Security
to conclude:
Because of lack of data on emigration
and other-than-legal immigration, even
present levels of net immigration are
only educated guesses that may be far
from accurate. (Social Security Adminis-
tration 1991, p. 33).
This article describes the general as-
sumptions related to emigration that under-
lie projections of Social Security's finan-
cial status and examines how closely these
assumptions fit research findings. The first
section provides a simplified overview of
how immigration enters into the Social
Security projections and summarizes the
assumptions that are made about the mag-
nitude and timing of emigration. The
second section focuses on the magnitude
of emigration, first describing previous
trends in emigration and then discussing
factors that may affect current and future
levels of emigration. The following sec-
tions focus on the timing of emigration.
The first one proposes four hypothetical
models of the decision to emigrate and
explores the implications of these models
for the timing of emigration. The next
section sheds empirical light on the timing
of emigration. The article concludes with
a discussion of the correspondence be-

Social Security Bulletin • Vol. 57, No. 1 • Spring 1994

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