Undocumented Aliens:

Medicaid-Funded Births in California and Texas

HEHS-97-124R: Published: May 30, 1997. Publicly Released: May 30, 1997.

Additional Materials:


Jane L. Ross
(202) 512-3000


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the number of undocumented alien women who enter the United States to give birth, focusing on Medicaid-funded births to undocumented aliens in California and Texas. GAO did not independently verify the information provided to it by state health departments.

GAO noted that: (1) in 1995, Medicaid-funded births to undocumented alien mothers were estimated to number over 78,000 in California and 24,000 in Texas; (2) the births in California represented 14 percent of all births and 34 percent of Medicaid-funded births in the state; (3) from 1992 to 1995, the number of Medicaid-funded births to undocumented alien mothers in California declined 18 percent, with a significant decrease form 1993 to 1994; (4) in contrast, from 1992 to 1995 in Texas, the number of Medicaid funded births to undocumented alien mothers more than doubled, while the total number of births remained fairly stable; (5) as a result, during these years, undocumented alien births funded by Medicaid increased from 4 to 8 percent of all births and from 9 to 16 percent of Medicaid funded-births in the state; (6) undocumented aliens may seek U.S. citizenship for their children for a variety of reasons, including the prospects of enhanced educational and economic opportunities for them; (7) although many factors motivate undocumented aliens to give birth in this country, state and county welfare officials in California stated that they believe that, in many instances, pregnant women have crossed the border to receive free medical services and, after bearing a U.S.-citizen child, other public benefits on behalf of their children; (8) state welfare officials in Texas also noted that the provision of health benefits to undocumented aliens can serve as an incentive for women to give birth in this country; and (9) however, Texas officials also said that public benefits might serve as less of an incentive to cross the border in Texas than in California, where the dollar amount of cash assistance for needy families with children is much greater.

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