Peter J. Smith

News

Brownback targets marriage-destroying welfare policies

Peter J. Smith

TOPEKA, Kansas, January 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The rules have to change in Kansas’s welfare programs says Governor-elect Sam Brownback, who claims that the programs are discouraging low-income individuals from marrying and forming strong intact families.

Brownback made the comments after announcing two social services appointments to his cabinet at the Statehouse Tuesday, according to the Kansas City Star.

“Studies show a healthy, loving family unit benefits not only the parents but, more importantly, the children,” Brownback said. “We will work to remove disincentives to marriage, so more couples can marry without the fear of losing crucial state support during difficult financial times.”

Brownback said the prospect of losing benefits by getting married is motivating couples to remain unwed in order to preserve a higher joint income from state subsidies. He also said the change in the rules would yield a short-term increase in costs, but a long-term overall gain for the state.

The claim that welfare programs have policies that financially discourage marriage-based families is not now.

Sociologist (and later U.S. Senator from New York) Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned in the 1965 Moynihan Report that the welfare rules created by the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program were breaking down low-income black families.

Such programs had stipulations that welfare payments would be made to women with dependent children, only if the “Man [was] out of the house” – a clear discouragement for poor dependent women to get married to their partners. Moynihan stated that the breakdown of husband-wife-led families in the black community was blocking their upward economic and social mobility, keeping them in poverty.

A more recent study published in the Fall 2004 edition of the Cato Journal also explained that welfare rules only benefited married couples more than unmarried cohabitating couples when only the man was working and the mother was solely involved in child-raising at home. In all other respects, the system’s income tax “marriage penalty” – adjusting the married couple’s welfare benefits based on their combined income – discouraged dependent couples from marrying, since it would entail the loss of benefits.

The study, by Mickey Hepner, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Central Oklahoma, and W. Robert Reed, Professor of Economics at the University of Oklahoma, concluded that the family structure incentives of state welfare programs in general “discourage the involvement of the adult male in the family unit because they make the relationship option of unmarried, unreported cohabitation (and possibly unmarried, living apart) financially attractive relative to either marriage or unmarried, reported cohabitation.”

Hepner and Reed stated that under state welfare rules for Oklahoma, a couple that was living together unmarried – and not reporting their cohabitating status to the state – could theoretically achieve “total family resources twice that of marriage.”

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