Study Reveals Race Plays Pivotal Role In How States Distributes Welfare Benefits
BY SUSAN JOHNES
A recent report from the Urban Institute states that there is biasedness of welfare assistance available to families in poverty. The report adds that the terms under which the families can receive the financial support largely depend on where they live.
The report was published Tuesday, June 6, and unveiled stark racial and geographic disparities in the way states disburse cash welfare, known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
According to the research, TANF policy decisions are tied to race, making states with larger African-American populations receive less-generous and more-restrictive TANF policies.
Additionally, states with people of color often have shorter periods of eligibility such as tougher conditions to maintain benefits and harsh penalties against those who break state welfare rules.
The researchers noted that while everyone is subjected to the same TANF policies, the rules still affect particular groups of Americans differently. African-Americans tend to be disproportionately handled in these low-ranking states including Louisiana, Texas, Wyoming, Georgia, and Arkansas.
The study found that policies are influenced by the racial attitudes of the decision makers who stereotype the typical welfare recipient. Thus, African-American must be poorer to receive the aid.
On the extreme negatives, welfare cash assistance has been reducing in nearly every state in the past 20 years, which has left several needy families without financial support.
The study shows that for every 100 low-income households in the U.S., only 24 receive welfare assistance, compared with 64 in 1996.
The good news worth noting is that States have improved their TANF spending. They now promote work activities, provide child care/preschool education, and other services not limited to low-income families. Only a small percentage is left behind for TANF cash payments.
The report indicates that families must earn less than $360 a month to qualify for the program. That implies that a family must be the poorest of the poor to be eligible for cash assistance.
The Urban Institute study concluded that racial makeup had a greater influence on the generosity of a state’s cash assistance program than factors such as economics, the political ideologies of policymakers and the educational attainment of residents.
As observed in the research, white public believe that welfare dependency circumstances are beyond one’s control. Thus, they encourage elected officials and other policymakers to support more generous policies.
Given the persistence of racist attitudes, the white public believes that welfare recipients are predominantly people of color. They think that welfare dependency is caused by personal shortcomings and support more restrictive policies.
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