Research From A Conservative Think Tank Says Welfare Pays More Than Your Average Low-Skill Job

August 13, 2013  |  


Welfare discourages people from seeking employment, a new study says, because it actually pays better than your average low-skill job. Nearly 48 million people receiving federal and state aid snag more money sitting at home than they would serving fries at McDonald’s, reports

In more than 30 states, including Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Americans who qualify for welfare can earn as much as $14 an hour, according to new research conducted by Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. This is nearly twice the rate of employees who work under the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

In states such as Oregon, New York, and Hawaii, if you’re on welfare, you can receive between $15 and $29 dollars an hour—the same wage as a teacher or a computer programmer.

“We still have a core of people who are on welfare for very long periods of time and part of the reason may be that we have simply made welfare pay better than work,” said Mike Tanner, lead author of the study.

The authors argue that paying out $14 an hour can make it difficult for anyone to transition from receiving government handouts to actively earning wages in the workforce. Choosing not to work becomes a more logical alternative. “That’s why Congress and the states need to do a better job or enforcing these work requirements,” said David Williams, another author.

Welfare recipients often lack the skills to obtain jobs that pay average or above-average wages, the study “Work Versus Welfare” says. “Individuals who do leave welfare for work most often start employment in the service or retail industries, in positions such as clerks, secretaries, cleaning persons, sales help, and waitresses,” the report points out. Many of these positions offer pay like that of the fast-food workers who’ve protested in recent weeks.

“It is so unnerving to me to hear people discuss people like myself as trash, taking advantage of the system and lazy,” said Holly Mayer, a welfare-dependent author for While the study suggests that welfare offers too much money to recipients, Mayer begs to differ. “A household of two adults and a child only receive about $150 per month if its EBT cash. That money dries up fast with children and monthly bills.”

“If you think we all stay on welfare to take advantage of the system, you’re wrong,” she added. “The amount I receive helps me stay in school and feed my daughter and me, and hopefully aids me in getting off the system as soon as possible.”

Mayer acknowledges that there are definitely people who do take advantage of welfare, but she adds that “ a more sophisticated system of screening” would rectify that problem, not depriving the recipients of funds as the study suggests.

What’s your take on this?

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  • Nope

    “A household of two adults and a child only receive about $150 per month if its EBT cash. That money dries up fast with children and monthly bills.”

    Basically. Anyone that thinks people are living it up while on government assistance is just plain foolish.

    • Reason411

      What if one of those adults got a job?

      Crazy and insensitive, I know…

  • Nikki

    Give as many negative ratings as you want, but it’s the truth. Go ask those who are standing outside government building and ask them why they are applying for government assistance. When I did, i saw a majority of healthy-looking, 20-something young black males. Their answer for not having a job, was “Why work when you can get a free check?”

    • MNAuthorKim

      Thanks for your comment! In my opinion, I think both sides have a point. There are certainly some people who are taking advantage of the system, but most people have no choice but to be on welfare and have true aspirations to move up on the income ladder.