Sunday, August 28, 2016

Robert Rector on US welfare reforms 20 years later

Twenty years after Clinton signed off the major welfare reform bill in the US, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Bill, the results are still getting a bad rap from the left. Even the Economist ran a skeptical report saying the record was patchy and the reforms had failed to touch deep poverty. Some states have worked a lot harder to use their capped welfare grant to best effect than others. That criticism has some validity. Also, sadly, there are always some in society who can't and won't be helped. New Zealand has its own share of people with intractable, self-destructive inclinations. I've seen people who have been through every source of available assistance to the point where even the Sallies have washed their hands of them.Ultimately propensities for addiction and aggression can only be overcome with a resolve from the individual harbouring them. But I digress.

There have also been some hysterical claims about the reforms pushing Americans into levels of third world poverty.

Robert Rector, who has written about welfare and poverty in the US for decades examines the claims here.

His concluding words are spot on and highly applicable to this country:

Exaggerating poverty has been a mainstay of progressive politics since the beginning of the war on poverty. No matter how much the taxpayers spend on welfare, the sky is always falling. Bogus claims of widespread “extreme destitution” promote social polarization and political paralysis, distracting attention from the real problems crippling low-income communities.


Michael Reddell said...

not related to this post, but do you have any comments/thoughts on the study in today's paper purporting to show that only 6% of 15 year olds have lived with both biological parents for their whole life (and only 25% are apparently living with both at age 15). The numbers seem implausibly low, but are there other reads on this?

Anonymous said...

there was no real welfare reform in the US in the 90s under Clinton or anyone else.

Recently, in Kansas and a couple of other US states --- with GOP Governors and legislatures --- there has been real reform: like 3 month lifetime limits on food stamps, eliminating all other forms of welfare, ending Obamacare and Medicare for bludgers --- they're getting great results.

But the only real welfare reform is immediately abolishment: dole, super, government school, government hospitals.

Cabinet can make an Order in Council and shut the lot down overnight. That's all it would take.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Hi Michael,

It's a very small sample. Around 200 from memory. The off-spring of the well-known Dunedin Multi-Disciplinary Study cohort were sampled at age 15. I would want to see equivalent data from a much larger sample or preferably, from the census.

I looked at changing family structure in the following paper and gathered what was available about differing family types. The problem is the 'churn' is substantial. I have referred in the paper to SOFIE, the longest and largest longitudinal study available in NZ, which might reveal more if you could get your hands on the raw data.