Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Welfare reform: the evil of the lesser evil

The recent foofooraw over the Clinton welfare reform led me to do some digging, and I was shocked and outraged by what I found for. So far I have been outraged for three days — it just keeps coming back to me.

What I found …
  • In 1994 Florida started a study of hard-limited welfare benefits. Clients were randomly sorted into one of two groups: a control group that got benefits similar to the old AFDC system and a group that got time-limited benefits as in the 1996 PRWORA system.
  • In 1996 the Clinton administration passed the PRWORA welfare reform bill including time-limited benefits
  • In 1999 the Florida study wrapped up
And there matters stood until 2013, when Muennig, Rosen, and Wilde of Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health published an analysis of the study data, “Welfare programs that target workforce participation may negatively impact mortality.” The “may” is academic modesty; it is nearly certain that the hard-limited group in Florida had a 16% higher mortality rate than the control group.

And this is now the law of the land, though I have heard that some changes made under Obama have softened the cruelty of the law.

Both William and Hillary Clinton tout PRWORA as an achievement, and I have not heard of remorse on their part.

 Economist Robert Waldmann is the main blogging voice on this subject, with a series of articles titled "Welfare Reform Kills:" 1, 2, 3.