Sunday, July 16, 2006

 

Does Welfare Break-Up Families?

I wish I had seen Chris's post sooner. The author of the article he links, Vedran Vuk, makes some pretty peculiar claims. For one, Vuk claims that programs like Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) break-up families because they mostly help single mothers and that some how gives fathers more incentive to leave. The author was on-line earlier this week for questions and I hate I missed it because I certainly have a few...

1) What exactly is the causal link between a government helping needy families (normally those led by single mothers) and fathers leaving those families? The best explaination I could come up with is that the father cares just enough about his family that he doesn't want to see them starve if he leaves. So, with a welfare check on stand-by, he can skip town with a slightly lighter conscience. But if that's the case...

2) Wouldn't the same consequences result from Vuk's world of increased family charity? What's the difference to the father whether his baby-momma is fed by the state or by her family? Seems like the father's incentives to leave remains the same. But let's not forget the fact that...

3) you can only receive aid from TANF for a few months at a time. Not to mention you can only be on the program for a total of 5 years in your life-time. So, quantitatively, how strong are the incentives Vuk's worrying somuch about? EXACTLY how strong? Did he take the time to do the measurements? And while we're at it...

4) How does Vuk account for the pro-family incentives that TANF might have? Maybe, providing mothers the ability to leave bad husbands today results in stronger families in the future. I don't know. But Vuk doesn't even seem aware of the possibility. This is an important question for both his qualitiative or a quantitative arguments.

And These are only a few of my questions. Honestly, I see more holes in his arguments than I see keys on my keyboard. But If anyone would care to set me straight on these issues, I am more than open to conversation. :)

Comments:
It really isn't the TANF of today. It is the program preceding TANF that was the problem.

In the 1960's there were a lot of studies done to show the adverse impacts on family structure of urban african americans.

Modern TANF isn't as bad. If you want some reading on the subject let me know. I got some thick books.
 
Oh yeah, the five year rule thing is a technicality that isn't really followed. Nobody actually wants to get caught (since it is a state by state thing) denying monies -- if they don't have to.

Atleast that's what the social workers told me....
 
Chis,

I would agree, AFDC (the program preceddin TANF) was a worse program. I don't how much it did to break up families, but it certainly gave people far less incentive to find work. It had no time limits and job incentives. That's bad for the empowerment of the unemployeed and bad for the tax payers supporting them.

But that still leaves me with three big questions...

1) Even if Vuk really meant AFDC instead of TANF (fundamental mistake on his part), why does that matter to the dead-beat dad? Under AFDC, his family gets fed. In Vuk's world of increased family charity, his family also gets fed. In either case, the father's "practical responcibility" remains subverted.

2) How do we know these anti-family incentives out-weight potential pro-family incentives? Like the one I mentioned in my blog post?

3) And we're still left with the question of HOW MUCH of an impact AFDC has on people's incentive to marry.

Personally I think Vuk hates the instiutiton of the family too. His On-top-of-Waltons-Mountain-bleeding-heart-conservatism faces the exact same incentive problem's that plauge Big-Brother-Bleeding-Heart-Liberalism. The BEST way to keep families together, is to strengthen the father's "practical responsibility".

That's why I support stoning women that have children outside of wedlock. And the men too if we can find 'em. OLD-TESTMENT CHAIRITY IS MY KINDA CHARITY!!!

;)
 
I hope you were kidding with that last paragraph.
 
Travis,

Of course. :)

The last paragraph is suppose to be a joke to make up for an otherwise overly-serious post.

Chris,

This all isn't to say Vuk might not have a point, but I think there are too many question left unanswered.

But I think the article was very interesting. And I appreciate you linking to it. :)
 
I think the argument is this:

Under TANF it's easier to qualify as a single parent than as a family.

With private charity, that is not the case.

So, there are disincentives for poor parents to stay together if they wish to receive TANF.
 
Jenna,

Maybe. Though Vuk wasn't arguing for private charity, he was arguing for the return of "family charity". Vuk imagines a world where extended families come together to pull each other up by the boot straps and all that individualistic stuff. And the only qualifying requirement to recieve "family charity" is common blood.

So, in the same way TANF destroys family values (by reducing the "practical responsibility" of dads), Vuk's extended family chairty ALSO destroys families.

That is, unless we want to stipulate that a girls family help her out if her husband leaves her. If that's the case, Vuk's world sounds more like a nightmare than a Waltons-esque daydream.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
The difference is that TANF creates disincentives while family charity doesn't.

Moreover, family charity is not simply charity from the wife/mother's familty. It could easily be from a husband/father's family as well. The point is that relying on relatives doesn't create a reason for a family to break up where none previously existed. TANF does.

It's all about incentives.
 
Jenna,

Indeed. It is all about incentives. And I don't see how the incentvies differ between TANF and Vuk's family charity.

Under TANF, a poor single mother is given assistance to support her family. Therefore, Vuk says that this reduces the father's "practical responcibility" to stay with his wife.

Under Vuk's family charity, won't a poor single mother ALSO be given assistance from her extended family to support herself and her children? If so, how is this different? WHY is the father's "practical responcibility" not subverted like before?

The only difference in either case is who is giving the assistance. The fathers incentives don't change. His ex will still be supported if he leaves. The only question is by whom, and that is totally irrelevant to his decision to leave.

You will have to draw me a map on this one because I don't see how the incentives differ.
 
Jenna,

Just to rephrase my point more clearly. In Vuk's argument, the only incentives that matter are the incentives facing the father.

If the father knows that his wife and child could be supported without him, according to Vuk, his "practical responsibility" to say is subverted.

What Vuk doesn't realize is that this argument cuts both ways. WHO supports the single mother isn't relevant to the father's decision.

Why should the father care if his wife's assistaince comes from Big Brother or Big Momma? In Vuk's world, the fact that the family is supported without the father present is all that matters.

IMO: neither argument holds water. The causal link between charit/welfare and divorce is fuzzy at best. And Vuk ignores the potential pro-family aspects of charity/welfare. Worrisome.
 
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