Multiply Justice

Profiting from a child’s illiteracy

Nicholas KristofNicholas D. Kristof writes at the New York Times:

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people [in Appalachia] don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month. … That is a burden on taxpayers, of course, but it can be even worse for children whose families have a huge stake in their failing in school. Those kids may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled. They may never hold a job in their entire lives and are condemned to a life of poverty on the dole — and that’s the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty.

There’s no doubt that some families with seriously disabled children receive a lifeline from S.S.I. But the bottom line is that we shouldn’t try to fight poverty with a program that sometimes perpetuates it.

Read the full text of this excellent post by clicking here.
Essential reading: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself

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2 thoughts on “Profiting from a child’s illiteracy

  1. Reblogged this on Curated Links For Soulfriend.org and commented:
    I spent a significant amount of my life in a part of Appalachia where many young people thought a “career path” was qualifying for Social Security Disability and getting food stamps so they could do whatever they wanted at tax payer expense. Hard to believe the New York Times noticed it. In the book “The Man Who Moved A Mountain”, about the mountaineers of Virginia in the early 1900’s the New York media called for the extermination of the mountaineers if they wouldn’t behave “just like the Red Indians”. So I suppose this is an improvement for the fate of Appalachians… they have been seduced by the welfare state instead of being eliminated altogether, but neither was what God intended.

  2. Pingback: Soul Crushing Dependency « David's Commonplace Book

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