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New Study by Ajay Chaudry on the Link Between Changes to the Public Charge Rule and Health of Mothers and Infants


Ajay Chaudry, research scholar at NYU’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change and Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Services, collaborated with Scarlett Sijia Wang, Sherry Glied, Dean of Wagner, and Claudia Babcock on a recently released paper, “Changes in the Public Charge Rule and Health of Mothers and Infants Enrolled in New York State’s Medicaid Program, 2014‒2019,” in the American Journal of Public Health.

The publication examines the effect of the January 2017 leak of the federal government’s intent to broaden the public charge rule on immigrant mothers and newborns in New York State. When deemed a public charge, an individual is not eligible for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, commonly known as holding a “green card,” and will be denied entry or reentry to the United States. In 2017, the Trump administration indicated its intent to change the definition of public charge in a way that would constrain low-income immigrants’ use of core public benefit programs essential to health and well-being. In January 2017, a draft executive order from the federal government to broaden the existing rule was leaked and circulated widely.

The research team utilized New York State Medicaid data (2014–2019) to measure the effects of the rule leak on Medicaid enrollment, health care utilization, and severe maternal morbidity among women who joined Medicaid during their pregnancies and on the birth weight of their newborns. They found that the leak of the public charge rule was associated with a significant delay in prenatal Medicaid enrollment among immigrant women and a significant decrease in birth weight among their newborns. In response, local public health officials should consider expanding health access and outreach programs to immigrant communities during times of pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment. 

The research team extends their gratitude to the Russell Sage Foundation for funding this research and to the NYU Health Evaluation and Analytics Lab and the New York State Department of Health for making the Medicaid claims data available.

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The Institute of Human Development and Social Change

IHDSC is the largest interdisciplinary institute on New York University's Washington Square campus supporting rigorous research and training across social, behavioral, educational, policy, and health sciences.

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