[Timothy B. Lee]
Businesses typically steer clear of hot-button political issues, and it's not hard to understand why. They want to attract as many customers as possible, and taking a side on a controversial issue will alienate whichever half of the population happens to be on the other side. So I was astonished to see the personal finance site Mint.com run this blatantly anti-immigrant chart on its Mintlife site. What's wrong with it? Well, let's start with the sources:
The most jarring name on this list is the openly racist vdare.com. The rest of the list is a mix of official government sources, non-profits, and blogs. The sources skew heavily in an anti-immigrant direction, although at least one is a pro-immigrant source (fiscalpolicy.org). While none of the other anti-immigrant sources is as offensive as vdare, few (if any) of them could be considered credible sources for statistics about immigration.
Given its sources, it's not surprising that the chart is riddled with implausible statistics. The most obvious whoppers are the claims that "about 43% of all Food Stamps issued in the United States are to illegal aliens," and "about 41% of all unemployment checks issued in the United States are to illegal aliens." Mint doesn't give specific citations, but these claims appear to come from this article at "Charlotte Conservative News," which itself does not cite any sources. Given that the law doesn't allow undocumented immigrants to collect unemployment benefits, this claim doesn't pass the straight face test. As for food stamps, I'm not able to find recent statistics, but a 1995 study found that undocumented immigrants with citizen children received about 2 percent of all food stamp benefits. The population of undocumented immigrants has increased in the last 15 years, but it hasn't increased by a factor of 20.