Sign up today and save up to 83% on a Hartford Courant digital subscription
CT Now

Judge welfare by facts, not stereotypes

There is no empirical support for the recent commentary claiming that welfare benefits are discouraging people from jobs ("In Maryland, it pays not to work," Aug. 14). The opinion piece is disingenuous and its recommendations are reckless. Tighten eligibility? Empirical data show that upward of 60 percent of all Maryland cash assistance applications are denied. Toughen work rules? Non-compliance with Maryland work rules stops cash grants. Reduce benefit levels? The maximum monthly cash grant for a Maryland family of three is $576, about 35 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Cato Institute's senior fellow got a few things right. Adult welfare recipients are not lazy. Our research using Maryland employment and welfare records shows that more than 70 percent of adults work before receiving aid and more than 70 percent work afterward. They are not "reluctant" to accept available jobs but, along with thousands of other adults, are competing for a limited number of jobs available. And certainly, minimum wage jobs can be springboards out of poverty. Our research shows that adults' initial post-welfare earnings are often low but increase steadily over time. The op-ed is correct, too, that the minimum wage should be raised. For hard-working Maryland families struggling to make ends meet, however, this would be much more than just a "nicety."

Maryland public policy favors work over welfare and, importantly, the use of facts, not fanciful notions or shopworn stereotypes, as the cornerstone for decision-making. This is why the state legislature has mandated that my colleagues and I at the University of Maryland track and regularly report on welfare outcomes in the state. Maryland uses evidence, not anecdote or innuendo, to make policies which affect its people.

Catherine E. Born, Baltimore

The writer is employed by the University of Maryland-Baltimore School of Social Work.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
Related Content
  • Do we reward hard work or not? [Letter]

    Do we reward hard work or not? [Letter]

    In regard to Dan Rodricks' recent column on the minimum wage and tipped workers ("Questioning wage law built on the kindness of strangers," April 18), I was following along with Dan's arguments up until his last sentence, "and I thought that in America we like to see extra effort rewarded."

  • The election's other winner: the minimum wage

    The election's other winner: the minimum wage

    As Republicans cast about looking for measures that might meet the definition of what Sen. Mitch McConnell called "common ground" with Democrats, there's an obvious candidate to emerge from the midterm elections. It's an idea that won broad support from the electorate as red as South Dakota and...

  • Minimum wage delay a rotten deal for workers [Letter]

    Minimum wage delay a rotten deal for workers [Letter]

    Why does the average person have to wait until 2018 for a raise to $10.10 an hour, but the people running Maryland can give themselves a raise in two seconds flat ("Wage hike, new marijuana bills OK'd as session ends," April 8)?

  • Minimum wage cartoons [Pictures]

    Minimum wage cartoons [Pictures]

  • Legislature forgets mental health again [Letter]

    Legislature forgets mental health again [Letter]

    In passing legislation to raise Maryland's minimum wage, the General Assembly included a provision to increase reimbursement for community-based developmental disabilities providers 3.5 percent each year for four years starting July 1, 2015 ("State leaders reach agreement on minimum wage, pay for...

  • Don't leave tipped workers behind [Commentary]

    Don't leave tipped workers behind [Commentary]

    Raise the minimum wage for all workers, including those who receive tips