Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spending habits of families receiving public aid vs. families who do not

By Freeman Stevenson, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Dec. 19 9:58 p.m. MST

 A volunteer, right, at St. Ignatius Food Pantry bags items as Larry Bossom, 41, who lost his job a few month ago, visits the facility Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in Chicago. Bossom is relying on food stamps and the food bank to help him until he finds work again. More than 2 million low-income Illinois residents who receive food stamps will soon see their benefits cut. Beginning Friday, a temporary increase in food stamp dollars from the 2009 economic stimulus will expire.

A volunteer, right, at St. Ignatius Food Pantry bags items as Larry Bossom, 41, who lost his job a few month ago, visits the facility Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in Chicago. Bossom is relying on food stamps and the food bank to help him until he finds work again. More than 2 million low-income Illinois residents who receive food stamps will soon see their benefits cut. Beginning Friday, a temporary increase in food stamp dollars from the 2009 economic stimulus will expire.

(M. Spencer Green, Associated Press)

According to the Atlantic, the welfare queen is a myth. That's after it gathered data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that tracked the spending habits of families who receive public aid against families who don't.

It turns out that on average families who receive public aid spend less than half as much as families who do not and spend even less when it comes to things such as food and insurance. As Jordan Weissman, author of the piece on the Atlantic, notes, "There were, on average, 3.7 people in each family on public assistance. ... So that $6,460 spent on food comes out to about $34 per person, per week."

We have created our own version of the graph for publication here.

Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and a writer for the Deseretnews.com Opinion section and Brandview. Email Freeman at fstevenson@deseretdigital.com

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1. brs27
Beaver, UT,
Dec. 19, 2013

This would be good, but there is a good chance this data is heavily skewed. If the study compares all families receiving assistance against all families not receiving, then this result is completely expected. OBVIOUSLY families who have a larger income are going to spend more. In order for this study to be useful it needs to compare families with similar income levels who are, or are not, receiving assistance. Probably the most useful would be to compare families who miss out on eligibility assistance by $100 to those who are $100 under the qualification. THAT would be an interesting data set.

2. higv
Dietrich, ID,
Dec. 19, 2013

People on welfare can't spend as much. How many people in HUD housing have TV's with cable or dish? Drive decent cars and have washers and dryers? Some don't but many may do. Even people on food stamps and living in hud homes have a decent standard of living.

3. Vladhagen
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 19, 2013

Is this surprising? It is called basic statistics and averages. I am a college graduate with a salary; I make a lot more than someone on welfare. I hence can spend a lot more. (This isn't to say that there are not college grads on welfare, just that my earning potential is much higher than what welfare pays.) But if the government paid for my housing and my food, ummm yes, my costs would go down. Duh. How is it surprising that people on welfare spend less on such things? If the government pays for everything for you, you tend to not need to spend much. What a bunch of crock. As a career math person, this sort of study is highly suspect to me.

If you are living on government assistance, that is fine; best luck in finding employment. But it seems like there are far too many people who live off the government as their employment. Dole earner is actually their employment.

4. DN Subscriber 2
SLC, UT,
Dec. 19, 2013

This really needs better research, photos and captions.

First, the photo and its caption from the Administration Propaganda (or Associated Press as they sometimes call themselves) is clearly advocacy "journalism" aimed at passing the Democrats perpetual extensions of welfare benefits.

Second, the source of the data, the "Consumer Expenditure Survey" is actually based on self reported data. Accuracy or trustworthiness of data from welfare recipients is questionable.

Third, the spending by families on welfare does NOT include "in kind" aid, such as housing which is free or subsidized; free medicare; free child care (under multiple programs) or the charitable contributions from soup kitchens, shelters, etc.

It should be possible to use the electronic purchase records of the EBT ('food stamp") cards to tell where the money was actually spent. Past reports have shown a lot of it spent at strip clubs and other obviously non-food operations. Within food vendors, the SKU codes should show what was purchased, and I bet it is not wholesome basic foods and baby formula, but mainly junk food and prepared stuff.

The actual use of OUR welfare money by the recipients needs a real thorough study, far more than this selective reporting.

5. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 19, 2013

People spending taxpayer money SHOULD spend much less than people spending their own money. I certainly hope this is the case always.