What are the effects of government welfare programs on families, and especially children? Do they simply provide a temporary hand up to families, so their children can go on to lead self-reliant, productive lives?
Or do they actually teach children, through their parents, to rely on government welfare, encouraging a soul-crushing dependency on the state and destroying what could be a life full of the human dignity and fulfillment that comes from self-reliance?
According to new research on “family welfare cultures,” the latter seems more likely to be the case.
The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found “strong evidence that welfare use in one generation causes welfare use in the next generation.” Note this is not a study showing correlation only. The authors, based on their statistical analysis, firmly believe they have found a causal link between parents being on welfare and children following their parents’ example.
What is that link? It is what most parents already understand: Children learn from their parents. The researchers “find suggestive evidence … in favor of children learning from a parent’s experience” with government welfare. In other words, children gain information from their parents’ welfare experience that leads them later in life to similarly go on welfare.
A sad irony of this welfare legacy is that it leads to the exact life outcomes for children that liberals cite as evidence of the need for more government welfare. The researchers find that parent welfare participation “decreases the probability that a child will be employed or pursue higher education.” So not only does welfare teach children to be on government welfare, it makes it less likely to make certain life choices that offer a hope of self-reliance.
The researchers conclude their study stating that they “find strong evidence of a welfare culture, where welfare use in one generation causes welfare use in the next generation.” They also recommend “a policy which makes the [welfare] screening process more stringent” as part of the remedy for intergenerational welfare. Certainly, reforming screening processes should be a part (but only a part) of a broader conservative push to reform government welfare programs, for the benefit of the people such programs are meant to serve.
No one but perhaps diehard “progressive” ideologues think that it is a good thing that current welfare programs teach future generations to be on welfare, remain unemployed, and avoid higher education. Though many will likely be duped by liberal activists who label any attempt at beneficial (i.e., conservative) reforms to government welfare programs as “an attack on the lives of the poor.”
Such positive reforms will (thankfully) undermine the “welfare culture” that “progressive” ideologues and liberal politicians prey upon for political power. They will also begin to actually treat future generations that would otherwise condemned to a life of welfare dependency as human beings, and let them experience the dignity, human fulfillment, and satisfaction of being self-reliant in the support of themselves and their families.