Study: Welfare often pays more than work


The hassle of work.

Work can be a hassle.

Waking up before dawn, driving to the office, listening to co-worker noises (including voices), typing stuff using semi-proper grammar and punctuation … all of that can weigh on you after a few minutes.

Fortunately, in many states, welfare pays more than the 9-to-5 grind, according to a study by The Cato Institute.

How much does welfare pay? It depends on where you live because welfare benefits are distributed at the state level.

Instead of cutting-and-pasting the entire study I will give you my analysis of the 52-page PDF in all caps like a blog commenter.


Why? According to the study, a welfare recipient in the nation’s capital could receive about $50,000 a year in pre-tax benefits. Divide that by 52 weeks and 40 hours and you get a “wage” of more than $24 an hour.

The writers of the study allege the “high level of benefits”  make the poor “reluctant to accept available employment opportunities.”

A liberal think tank may draw a different conclusion, like “the minimum wage needs to be raised to above what welfare pays in each state.”

Even conservatives have trouble believing the study, so it is OK to be skeptical of this and anything else you read.

Cato writers admit most on public assistance do not sign up for every possible benefit. For the purposes of their study they used the benefits a single mother of two might receive from the following programs: TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, aka ‘welfare’), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka ‘food stamps’), Medicaid (health care for the poor), Section 8 (housing payment assistance), LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), WIC (Women, Infant and Children nutrition program), TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program).

Here’s the “hourly wage equivalent” for the Top 5 states:

  • 1) Hawaii: $29.13
  • 2) D.C.: $24.42
  • 3) Massachusetts: $24.30
  • 4) Connecticut: $21.33
  • 5) New York: $21.01

Southern states have a lower cost of living. In Georgia, welfare pays less than minimum wage ($7.25):

  • 33) Louisiana: $10.70
  • 34) South Carolina: $10.53
  • 41) Georgia: $6.76
  • 46) Florida: $6.06
  • 49) Tennessee: $5.83
  • 50) Mississippi:$5.69
  • The lowest is Idaho (#51), at $5.36.

Here are some more interesting tidbits gleaned from the Cato study:

  • Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states.
  • In 13 states welfare pays more than $15 per hour.
  • The federal government currently funds 126 separate programs targeted toward low-income people, 72 of which provide either cash or in-kind benefits.
  • In 11 states, welfare pays more than the average pre-tax first year wage for a teacher.
  • In eight states, benefits exceed that of the state’s median salary.

The writers of the study are not down on poor people. They say “there is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy or do not wish to work. Indeed, surveys of welfare recipients consistently show their desire for a job.”

But they say “states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.” But, as I said earlier, some would suggest raising the minimum wage is a better alternative.

A Pew Research Center study released in December of 2012 found that 55 percent of Americans have been on at least one of the six largest government safety net programs.

Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to cut the food stamp program by 5 percent, but the Senate will likely shoot down the measure.

Here’s some more news you may find interesting:

146 comments Add your comment


September 20th, 2013
8:43 am

NO WAY?!? And this is exactly as your progressive liberals lead you down the path to total dependence. People on welfare know this, have known it for years. Plus there are dozens of other programs that provide supplemental “income” – so your earning potential is only limited by how many hours you are willing to wait in a welfare office.

This is just a tidbit of the real story – any working person would be horrified to hear the actual state of entitlement programs in this country.


September 20th, 2013
8:45 am

With this info there will be a mass migration from Georgia to one of the higher pay out states of recipients.

Eddie Economics

September 20th, 2013
8:48 am

If the average 0bama Supporter had to pass an IQ test in order to receive welfare funds at taxpayer expense, our federal budget would have a vast surplus from all that money that would no longer be wasted on welfare.


September 20th, 2013
8:52 am

A Conservative will be outraged and question why the government hands out cash.

A Liberal will be outraged and question why people aren’t paid living wages to begin with.

Guess which one is more compassionate?


September 20th, 2013
8:53 am

Seriously, welfare has become little more than corporate welfare. McJobs don’t pay enough for a person to live on, so they have to be supplemented by SNAP and the like.

Where is the Conservative outrage there? Why get mad at the people who are just trying to survive? Why not get mad at the people who set the system up so that people have no choice but to be on welfare?

Yeah, but...

September 20th, 2013
8:55 am

You or the original article failed to mention the cost of living in these states/district. Once you factor in that, it really does put it into perspective.


September 20th, 2013
8:55 am

How does it make you haters feel that you have to get out of bed and bust your behinds while working each day just so the government can take a huge chunk of your paycheck and give it to Terrell & Laquisha so they can sleep until the crack of noon and then sit around and watch Jerry Springer & Bernie Mac reruns on TV the rest of the day until it is time to head to the clubs & make some more unwanted babies?


September 20th, 2013
9:00 am

Free government handouts should come with free, permanent sterilizations.


September 20th, 2013
9:00 am

i think you should have a choice,either work or go homeless and hungry,tired of my tax money supporting all these deadbeats


September 20th, 2013
9:00 am

time to clean up the system (except the Dems would lose a lot of their voter base).

remember me?

September 20th, 2013
9:04 am

I’m LBJ. Looks like my Great Society plan is working!

Eddie Economics

September 20th, 2013
9:05 am


McJobs are intended for teenagers who still live with their parents and just want spending money (& who aren’t pregnant) OR retirees with no outstanding debt.

Companies exist to make profits, not to subsidize the ‘gangsta’ lifestyles of lazy, uneducated simpletons who contribute nothing more to society other than getting our McHamburger orders wrong.


September 20th, 2013
9:05 am

boyboy….seriously? Conservatives aren’t outraged at people legitimately needing help, but when the system is setup in such a way that a person on welfare can make almost as much as a person with a 4 year degree it’s completely counterproductive. It makes NO sense no matter how you try and spin it. People that actually get up and go to a job every day and pay the majority of the taxes deserve better than this.

As far as your fast food diatribe give me a break. There are tons of jobs out there, well at least there used to be (pun intended), that pay more than minimum wage McJobs hourly rates. Warehouse work is one example. Many people can do physical labor or work on the office side of things without a degree and can easily make anywhere from 9-20+ bucks an hour depending on the state. What this country needs is to get these lazy asses, referring to those abusing the system and not the ones that actually need it, off their collective asses and get them skilled in some way so they can get a real job. Raising minimum wage and welfare of this magnitude only delegitimizes the hard work many people who spent years and lots of money/student loans to better themselves and make a good living. Sorry, but your logic doesn’t hold water.

Totally Real Person -- Totally!

September 20th, 2013
9:12 am

Dear George Mathis:

Thank you for yet another hate filled class warfare article! The only real difference between you and Jerry Springer is that Jerry makes REAL money and you’re just hanging on at the fringe of society.

Instead of Trash TV we now have Trash Journalism (oh but what you do is far from journalistic!) coupled with sensationalism and a bit of bigotry thrown in for a few more blog responses.

I can’t wait to see what your column will be tomorrow…………….i can just picture the headlines:

Although Teenage Pregnancies Have Gone Down; Abortions Have Gone Up; and Gay People Want Rights To The Aborted Fetuses

Enough smut in that ^^ to keep you in blog responses for at least 2 whole days!!! (eyes:rolling)

reality man

September 20th, 2013
9:25 am

boyboy – you want to know where the conservative outrage is???? Are you serious??? Do you live under a rock??? Conservatives have been expressing their outrage for years at all of the job-destroying rules and regulations (ACA, SOX, EPA, etc) that have hampered the US economy from producing jobs. Conservative have been focusing their outrage at the source of the problem, not the symptons. The MSM and proggies like to misinterpret it as “racism” and “hatred”. Someday, hopefully before it’s too late, the libs and proggies will wake up and when they look in the mirror, they will see that it is their programs and policies which have pushed down and kept people in poverty.

Totally real? Totally stupid.

September 20th, 2013
9:26 am

Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t make it trash journalism. This information was news to me. I am not sure what the appropriate solution is, but certainly it makes sense that working should pay better than being on welfare. Also, there does seem to be a permanent group of people who live on welfare from generation to generation and we should find a reasonable solution to that as well.

Don't Tread

September 20th, 2013
9:29 am

Georgia needs to drop welfare to lower than $5.36 an hour and tighten up the eligibility requirements. Maybe that will run the deadbeats off…they can go live in a blue state. (It pays more to do that now, anyway.)


September 20th, 2013
9:33 am

Came here for racism and compassionate Christianity, leaving satisfied.

Southside Stevie

September 20th, 2013
9:40 am

Scarier still is that Hillary Clinton will run – and win – the 2016 Presidential election. Then, we’ll have unprecedented unemployed and millions more on welfare…after all, she’ll need a SECOND term, too!


September 20th, 2013
9:46 am

Really! We needed a study to tell us that? They couldn’t just see all the well-bodied people on welfare and deduce that? Next, they’ll tell us that a study has concluded that water is wet.

M, where is the racism?

manman, there is no law that says you can’t get two and even three jobs to makes ends meet. If you don’t like what you’re being paid, then get a new job. The world does not cater to you.


September 20th, 2013
9:47 am

It is ZERO in Pennsylvania.


September 20th, 2013
9:50 am

If you could see the number of young able bodied people I see on welfare you would demand a change! Unless you work with them you have your head in the sand.

Robert Welsh

September 20th, 2013
9:51 am

This article is very misleading.

The article, states “in reality, the federal government currently funds 126 separate programs targeted toward low-income people, 72 of which provide either cash or in-kind benefits to individuals. (The remainder fund community wide programs for low-income neighborhoods, but do not provide benefits directly to individual recipients.) State, county, and municipal governments operate additional welfare
programs. Of course, no individual or family receives benefits from all 72 programs, but many
recipients do receive aid from a number of the programs at any given time. The total value of welfare received, therefore, is likely to be far higher than simply the level of TANF benefits.”

This is how they calculate the hourly wage. This is not good social-science.
These programs don’t work to move people out of poverty because they are not designed to do so. Often times, they are too focused on outputs, instead of outcomes. If you want to help working families become independent, each of the statues and regulations that govern these programs need to be completely overhauled by congress redesigned to provide education, job training, to really help families help themselves. Some government programs actually do more harm than good. Housing programs for example are key to this issue. For example, some section-8 apartment complexes that provide subsidized housing also have the highest rates of child neglect and abuse. Therefore, the money taxpayers provide to subsidized housing is offset by the TANF funds, and state general funds used to investigate and remove the very children from the homes we just paid for. That’s stupid. Why, because the law and regulations do not require a social worker on site, or social services, or connectivity to educational institutions for persons who need a helping hand. It’s like the recent SNAP legislation to require a work requirement with no resources to help folks get in a position to be qualified for the few jobs out there. What we really need is horizontal integration across social programs. In 2013, no social program should exist in a silo. We are all connected. However, we must be sensitive and compassionate in our approach when discussing this issue because we did not just keep here overnight. Moreover we need to let the socioeconomic data guide the conversation. Many neighborhoods in urban, rural and suburban areas are ground zero for the welfare state. We must do more.

Robert Welsh, Candidate
Atlanta City Council District One


September 20th, 2013
9:52 am

This situation that you are about to see only affect a small portion in this population. You have a man after 18 years of marriage and gave the ex-spouse the divorce because he wanted to move the family from a crime ridden area and relocate them to a family friendly environment. The mother decides to listen to her girlfriends and now this father is wrongfully convicted of Non Payment of Child Support;however, during the small series of videos. You will see how he was trapped in a system that will not release him. Therefore, if all men are “Deadbeats Daddies” because of Child Support then the women who collect child support like it is a constitutional right. Then these type of mothers shall be called “Sperm Trappers”? You Decide.


September 20th, 2013
9:57 am

Its very obvious that in states/areas controlled by the liberals–Hawaii, DC, Mass, Conn & NY, the more welfare is payed out. In the southern states controlled by conservatives, less welfare is paid out. Glad I live in the south. Living in the north must be a buzz kill to most middle class residents because of the amount of their tax dollars going to the lazy freeloaders…and the cold weather.

Robert Scott

September 20th, 2013
9:57 am

Government charity should be abolished because it cares not to distinguish between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. It is used instead to reward a voting base that includes not just those receiving welfare, but also those employed to dispense welfare.

Private charities at all levels including civic groups, churches and families are better suited to help the poor because they are closer to those in need, and since their resources are voluntarily donated neither side will be inclined to dependency.

Charity should not be profitable to either those who give or those who receive.


September 20th, 2013
10:00 am

George, I expect the Editing Management of the AJC, can expect YOUR RESIGNATION by the end of the WORK DAY!

You have Raise in PAY starting Monday…but not with the AJC. :)


September 20th, 2013
10:00 am

What a joke. This country is done. Im leaving


September 20th, 2013
10:02 am

This “study” is deeply flawed with malice and intent. In Georgia 80% of the persons who receive TANF are grandparents or other relatives receiving assistance for their grandchildren or nieces and nephews, etc. This happens because the parent is deceased, ill, incarcerated, or is not caring for the child in which case child support is vigorously pursued. The study presumes that all of these children get SNAP, Earned Income Tax Credits, Housing and Utility Assistance and other public benefits. This is a ludicrous lie. The truth is that the relatives are often employed and are saving the tax payers money by keeping their relative children out of foster care for a small TANF check (a pittance) and Medicaid. There is NO automatic entitlement to all these other benefits outlined in the study’s hypothetical benefit package. Inclusion of the Earned Income Tax Credit is silly because folks have to be working to receive that and are choosing to work. It is unfortunate that news organizations copy and plop absurdity in articles without any scrutiny or thought. The role of the news media in providing the public with objective and documented reporting is totally abdicated. The CATO Institute has gussied up a blivit (which my Daddy called 7 lb. of manure in a 5 lb. sack) to inflame the uninformed public with gross misrepresentations of fact and the AJC just passes it on as gospel. There is always room for improvement in programs. The 1996 Welfare Reforms reduced TANF recipients dramatically by helping folks to go to work. Other posters are proposing to tell children (the preponderance of the recipients) to go to work or become homeless and that they should be permanently sterilized. If you want children to have a chance to succeed in school the provision of medical care and adequate nutrition is a prudent action.

Don't Tread

September 20th, 2013
10:02 am

“Some government programs actually do more harm than good…some section-8 apartment complexes that provide subsidized housing also have the highest rates of child neglect and abuse.”

And the government-subsidized housing program is at fault for that? Did government employees come into the apartment complex and neglect/abuse the children? REALLY?

News flash, Mr. Candidate…child abuse and neglect are caused by the adults living with them who have no moral compass…not the government program subsidizing their rent!

The good (for you) news is, people in your district can’t figure this out (all their problems are someone else’s fault anyway), so you’ll probably win the election.


September 20th, 2013
10:08 am

First of all, this list does not represent CASH payments. The reason the “wages” of welfare are higher in places like DC is because it reflects the cost of HOUSING, not actual payments. Also figured in the “wages” are healthcare benefits such as Medicaid. Again, this is not a CASH payment. Food, housing and medical–the basics needs of people, vary in cost from state to state. The CATO institute, a Libertarian “Think Tank” whose main purpose is limited government and NO social safety net, is misleading the public with this so-called “study”.

Bill Clinton's Love Child

September 20th, 2013
10:09 am

Mr. Welsh, you certainly sound like a politician! Example: “what we need to do…” Well just do it then. Don’t be like the rest of the monstrosity we call government.

With respect to the number of programs (126?!?!?!), it seems like a good start would be to review what each does and consolidate the efforts. Sounds like typical government efficiency. Of course, once elected politicians seem to forgot who they work for and don’t take comments and suggestions from their consituents. Let’s hope you’re different.

By the way, congratulations on your plug as well as Jsaund29115. You picked a great forum to exploit.


September 20th, 2013
10:10 am

Of course having both political parties beholden to cheap labor lobbyists doesn’t help the middle class or “livable” wage. Shipping manufacturing and many I.T. jobs to 3rd world countries has had an impact, and turning a blind eye to illegals for cheap construction wages hasn’t helped. Amnesty will also impact the american wage earner as there will be more candidates for every legitimate job.


September 20th, 2013
10:18 am

lol.. Yeah right! I don’t even know how they come up with those figures.. taking care a household of 4, with $386.00 a month, rent, light, gas, water, clothing, household supplies, not to mention clothing, cost of food, ie.. If you look at some of these salaries, they are paying politicians to tell these lies, athletes to play sports, while public services, educators, ie salaries are at the bottom, that the CRIME AND SHAME! # look at where the silver spoon comes from… # To thy ownself be true

Hand Full of Spades

September 20th, 2013
10:22 am

It’s the sad truth LeAndre, but that is exactly how it happens…. I personally grew up in a middle/working class black neighborhood, but my church and school was in a mix neighborhood (low income to middle class) neighborhood, some people truly were disabled and couldn’t work…. But most COULD!!! I have met and were even friends with some of them that were on welfare. It burns me up at how sorry and lazy some of the people on welfare and/or foodstamps, etc. can be…. Me and My Family have always worked hard for what we got, even during hard times, the thought of getting handouts never once came to mind. We are a hard working, middle class, African-American mixed with some Native American Family!


September 20th, 2013
10:38 am

George Mathis, you get paid to post this sh!t and watch the resulting fireworks set off by the local contingency of knuckle-draggers and tree huggers?

Bravo, sir.


September 20th, 2013
10:39 am

Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
10:42 am


The Repubs have declared all-out war on the so-called democratic “handout” folks that supported Obama.

1. Kick em off food stamps
2. Don’t fund ObamaCARE
3. Shut down the Govt.
4. Don’t pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Hey you got to admit – they are taking a big gamble but let me tell you why it’s not going to work.

1. The very people they need to win a national election – they continue to alienate.
2. Kicking folks off of welfare -without working with the President to create jobs – wow know that’s political suicide.
3. They want do derail ObamaCARE but have not ideas or solutions on ways to fix it – or address the fact that million of Americans are without health care.

Wow………Hollywood could not script this &^%* – not even the most gifted of writers.

Life is so much more intersting…sit back folks and enjoy the show.

Do The Math

September 20th, 2013
10:45 am

It’s not just Welfare, it’s the other overlapping layer upon layers of entitlement that add to the benefit of not working. When you qualify for Welfare, there are hundreds of other giveaways courtesy of the taxpayers that you qualify for. Like the WIC program that goes along with Welfare, these people also get free breakfast and lunch for their kids through the public schools. Entitlements are like drugs, once you get your first high / fix you keep wanting more and more and you become an addict.

Those that really NEED or DESERVE entitlements are either too proud and / or hardworking or make too much money at their multiple low wage jobs.

ENTITLEMENTS should be supplements and short term.

PS. Mr Politician Welsh, thank you for commenting and letting me know that you will NOT be receiving MY VOTE.


September 20th, 2013
10:49 am

This is a bogus study. It takes 8 different welfare programs, adds them up, and assumes that ALL poor families recieve ALL of these benefits. In truth, poor families may only receive a few at a time, and rarely direct cash assistance.

The Gwinnett Geezer

September 20th, 2013
10:50 am

So let me translate this for all welfare addicts.

You need to move to Hawaii, Mass, D.C., Conn, or NY if you want to get a lot more free money every month than you are now getting.

That means you need to leave Georgia and the quicker the better if you want more money. Hurry or someone may get there before you and take your spot. Hurry!


September 20th, 2013
10:51 am

Thank you @really? for that link. It would be nice if another columnist provided a follow up response using that article that quickly shows that the study this guy is using is beyond misleading. Nothing like knowing what results you want as a starting point for a “study” and not letting reality get in your way.

Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
10:52 am

@ Do The Math

“Entitlements are like drugs, once you get your first high / fix you keep wanting more and more and you become an addict.”

What’s the solution?

Your math is not adding up.

How do we fix this mess.

1. Create jobs
2. Improve our schools
3. Creat a culture of equality
4. Look to other nations for “best practices.”

What are your solutions – just kicking folks off of entitlements is not going to work.

Will the crime rate go up?


@ Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
10:55 am

LMAO. So basically you (Sour Grapes) are part of the problem (taker), and not part of the solution (producer). You just admitted that Obama voters are Loosers that would never vote for a republican anyway.

As a fellow democrat, that is utterly embarassing that you admit this lowest common denominator mentality. You do realize that more and more Democrats realize that people like you don’t deserve my tax dollars or my vote in the upcoming elections.

Sour Grapes makes nothing but WHINE.

Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
10:57 am

I cant do da math so i need soomeone else to do it for me.

Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
10:59 am

this comment paid for by the taxpayers so that i can comment all day. i sour grapes aproove dis massage.

Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
11:01 am


WT* (What the *&&^)

You missed my point – the Repubs lost two elections (and if Hllary runs it will be three).

It was not my opinion – but the Repub poitical analyst who concluded that the Repubs will need to expand their voter base.

But the Repubs continue to act like a party of exclusion.

Bottom line is the Repubs need some of who they call “handouts” in order to will the next election.

They need em — and that make you so mad don’t it.


Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
11:02 am

i approve dis message during my massage that i get because i am on disabilty. the welfare money comes in handy too.


September 20th, 2013
11:05 am

bogus study. anything coming out of the Cato institue isn’t suitable for waste extraction from one’s gluteal crevice.

Sour Grapes

September 20th, 2013
11:06 am

when the bus comes picks us up to come vote we will vote democrat all the way the republicans all are white down with white. brown america BROWN.