Title of Abstract

The Status of Welfare and the Reduction of Poverty Across the United States

Submitting Student(s)

R. Wesley Thomas II

Session Title

Vulnerable Populations 2

Faculty Sponsor (for work done with a non-Winthrop mentor)

Kim Hye-Sung, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Political Science

Abstract

In America, there is a confusion of purpose when it comes to Welfare: is welfare supposed to alleviate poverty, or make it comfortable? Critics of more generous welfare programs accuse these policies of encouraging poverty and the causes of poverty, such as by allowing extended periods of unemployment, or of encouraging single motherhood. What is the reality? This study was designed to compare welfare across states, comparing welfare spending with subsequent increases and decreases in poverty to discover whether there was any impact, and in what direction. Using national census data from 1970-2019, and state level data from 1980-2019, I compared year-by-year welfare spending as a percentage of national GDP with the change in poverty rate between that year and two years later. We did this on a national level, as well as with individual analyses of Texas, California, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. I found that higher spending was correlated with increases in poverty two years later. While correlations were not particularly strong, taking into account the myriad of potentially confounding variables, that correlation exists at all is notable, especially seeing as it all trends in the same direction given the case studies observed, with the exception of Rhode Island. Given both the quantitative and qualitative circumstances of these welfare systems, those which prioritized bringing individuals and families to economic independence and which held higher standards for receiving welfare produce lower poverty rates over time but may suffer more severely during economic recessions.

Start Date

15-4-2022 12:00 PM

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Apr 15th, 12:00 PM

The Status of Welfare and the Reduction of Poverty Across the United States

In America, there is a confusion of purpose when it comes to Welfare: is welfare supposed to alleviate poverty, or make it comfortable? Critics of more generous welfare programs accuse these policies of encouraging poverty and the causes of poverty, such as by allowing extended periods of unemployment, or of encouraging single motherhood. What is the reality? This study was designed to compare welfare across states, comparing welfare spending with subsequent increases and decreases in poverty to discover whether there was any impact, and in what direction. Using national census data from 1970-2019, and state level data from 1980-2019, I compared year-by-year welfare spending as a percentage of national GDP with the change in poverty rate between that year and two years later. We did this on a national level, as well as with individual analyses of Texas, California, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. I found that higher spending was correlated with increases in poverty two years later. While correlations were not particularly strong, taking into account the myriad of potentially confounding variables, that correlation exists at all is notable, especially seeing as it all trends in the same direction given the case studies observed, with the exception of Rhode Island. Given both the quantitative and qualitative circumstances of these welfare systems, those which prioritized bringing individuals and families to economic independence and which held higher standards for receiving welfare produce lower poverty rates over time but may suffer more severely during economic recessions.