The Cruelty is the Point

A new study has discovered that social safety net programs reduce crime.

So the war on social services not only hurts people in need, it makes the world less safe for the rest of us:

A new paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics indicates that removing cash welfare from children when they reach age 18 greatly increases the chances that they will face criminal justice charges in subsequent years.

Supplemental Security Income is a United States program that provides payments to people with disabilities who have low incomes. Children qualify for the program based on their disability status and their parents’ low income and assets. Until 1996 children automatically continued to qualify for the adult program when they reached 18 years old unless their incomes increased.

1996, huh? Bill Clinton’s welfare reform continues to hurt the country.

As part of changes made to US social welfare programs in 1996 the US Social Security Administration began to reevaluate children receiving SSI when they turned 18 using different, adult, medical eligibility criteria. The Social Security Administration began removing about 40% of children receiving benefits when they turned 18. This process disproportionately removes children with mental and behavioral conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Using data from the Social Security Administration and the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System researchers estimated the effect of losing Supplemental Security Income benefits at age 18 on criminal justice and employment outcomes over the next two decades. By comparing records of children with an 18th birthday after the date of welfare reform enactment on August 22, 1996, and those born earlier (who were allowed onto the adult program without review) the researchers were able to estimate the effect of losing benefits on the lives of the affected youth.

They found that terminating the cash welfare benefits of these young adults increased the number of criminal charges by 20% over the next two decades. The increase was concentrated in what the authors call “income-generating crimes,” like theft, burglary, fraud/forgery, and prostitution. As a result of the increase in criminal charges, the annual likelihood of incarceration increased by 60%. The effect of this income removal on criminal justice involvement persisted more than two decades later.

………

The paper is titled “Does Welfare prevent crime? The criminal justice outcomes of youth removed from SSI.”

This is emblematic of our dysfunctional society at the core of our broken welfare system.

Our polity is paralyzed by fear of someone possibly getting something that they do not “deserve,” and so create a needlessly punitive society.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store