One more hidden cost of welfare?

As we’ve noted before, government welfare programs generally carry a hidden cost beyond that paid by taxpayers – a cost paid by the recipients, in whom dependency and a loss of independence are fostered.

An interesting new study in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues suggests that dependency on government largesse may carry an additional cost, this one for recipient spouses. The study involves a survey of Utah couples and found: “Individuals that experienced the combination of earning less than $20,000 per year while receiving government assistance had significantly lower levels of overall marital satisfaction and commitment than individuals receiving government assistance with higher incomes and individuals who have never received government assistance.”

As recent Census data (page 8, table 2) make clear, experiencing a divorce is associated with an increased likelihood of receiving public assistance.

This begins to look like a vicious circle: The government creates dependency with its welfare programs. The recipients of these programs experience weakened marriages. Weakened commitment to marriage leads to divorce (facilitated by no-fault divorce laws that ally the government with the spouse who wants out of the marriage). Divorce leads to an increased use of public assistance.

If one wanted to create a system for increasing the number of individuals dependent on government, this wouldn’t be a terrible way to do that.