Five Myths About Welfare and Child Poverty

Debates about child poverty and welfare are marked by five common assumptions: 1) the welfare state in the U.S. is small; 2) welfare benefits are meager and insufficient; 3) due to a lack of government support, poverty and deprivation are widespread; 4) welfare substantially penalizes work, trapping families in poverty; and 5) raising the minimum wage would be an effective strategy for reducing child poverty. These assumptions are false. The welfare system is quite massive, and many low-income families receive a generous welfare package. Furthermore, low-income working families remain eligible for a large amount of welfare benefits even quite far up the income scale. Raising the minimum wage is a poor way to address poverty; it is a poorly targeted policy and would limit job openings for the least advantaged workers. Dispelling these misconceptions is a prerequisite to forming rational welfare policy to help poor families.

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