Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Do you make more on welfare, or working a minimum-wage job?

Asked by ETpro (34232 points ) November 24th, 2011

In a recent rant about how the poor are America’s problem because they take so much from our oppressed billionaires, a right-winger on Sodahead,com declared that a person on welfare actually gets more spendable income per month than one who works a full-time job for minimum wage. Never mind that we transitioned from welfare to workfare back in Bill Clinton’s Presidency. People do still collect welfare, and if the claim is true, it would make transitioning from welfare to workfare difficult. But is it true? I know that much of what the hard right tosses around as “facts” are pulled out of thin air, or Rushbo;s butt. So before deciding where I stand on the “Welfare’s too generous” issue, I’d like to know the facts. How do the two compare?

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9 Answers

CaptainHarley's avatar

Since I’ve never had either, it’s difficult for me to say, but I would imagine it would depend upon how your state structures its welfare programs.

Symbeline's avatar

That really depends on the place, and how welfare works there. Same for the jobs, and what the minimum wages are. That, and your living situation, if you have kids, roomates, where you live, like a house, or an appartement…

Here in Québec I spent about three months on welfare. You get about 600 dollars a month. I had to pay my rent with that, which is nearly 500 bucks. That doesn’t leave much for spending, and I got really late in my electricity bills during those months. Those months were horrible, and I had to sell some video games just so I could get some damn food.

In Winnipeg, you get less money per month, but they pay 200 dollars of your rent. I lived in a rooming house that cost 214 a month, and I got by, but I had to get the strict essentials, and nothing more. Eventually I found work, which wasn’t minimum wage, but just about. I fared much better then, but not by a big increase. Except I ate much better food and was able to buy fun things for myself every now and then. No bills to pay in a rooming house ecxept your rent though. But living in a rooming house is fuckin horrible.

So, it can depend on a lot of things. To make it simpler, calculate how much welfare a recipient gets in your area, then calculate the minimum wage and multiply it to four forty hour weeks, and compare. If I do that for my area, you get a lot more by working. (and here, welfare doesn’t pay part of your rent, although you do get more benefits if you have kids)
So again, you gotta weight out a lot of factors first, I guess, for a clear answer.
So, in that case, working shit pay was better than welfare for me.

I can tell you one thing about welfare to work transition though…welfare ain’t no fuckin vacation lol. In Winnipeg, they do everything they can to discourage you from collecting. Sometimes your cheques don’t arrive, and you gotta go down there and fight for em lol. They also offer lots of job finding programs you have to join, so that can always help, for those having trouble finding something. But yeah, the government doesn’t want you on there, at all haha.

In Québec, you could probably live your whole life on it. They don’t seem to give a shit. But what you get isn’t enough to cover daily life costs. Both my times on welfare, I was wanting a job, and I was wanting it fast lol.

jerv's avatar

It depends, but bear in mind that a lot of minimum wage jobs are part-time. Also note that earning more may actually screw you as you lose eligibility for other aid like food stamps. I mean, that extra $200/month isn’t worth it is you lose $300/month worth of food stamps, right?

But you have to give more information. What sort of minimum wage job? Where? Minimum wage in WA state is $9/hr for a reason whereas you can get a 37-room house for 29 cents a year in other parts of the country. In fact, location has a lot to do with it.

CWOTUS's avatar

Whether the claim is literally true or not hardly matters. Assume that a welfare recipient “only” receives 75% of the cash income that a person makes working minimum wage at full time, and let’s start the comparison there.

In that case, the working person has to be concerned with getting himself to and from that job on time every day (at least every weekday, we’ll assume) and he’s probably working – hard – at that job. (Minimum wage jobs aren’t usually desk jobs, are they?) So he’s getting up out of a warm bed every day, getting himself to work, spending the day at a job that is (probably) pretty physically demanding, and then getting himself home. And he has to arrange and pay for that transportation in some way, too. In addition, he’s probably having income tax withheld, and definitely having FICA and Medicare tax withheld.

The welfare recipient is living at the cost of this person, because the tax payments that are being withheld from him, regardless of whether they say “FICA” or “Medicare”, are deposited into the General Fund that provides the cash to pay the welfare.

And the worker is being incentivized to quit working.

Paradox25's avatar

This question is has too many variables to answer with a single straight response. There are many factors that need to be considered here such as the state mentioned, minimum wages, individual laws, size of family, etc. Perhaps the best way to find your answers is to look at the correlation between minimum wage levels of each state in comparison with the federal minimum wage relating to the amount of people in different scenerios in each state. Perhaps this link will help you determine your answer.

Personally I’ve found it to be a waste of time to discuss politics with the RWNJ’s on sodahate, I needed to take a break from there. I’m not sure how you survive on there without smashing your computer monitor to be honest.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I don’t know about other states, but I think in TX that the only form of Welfare available is Aid For Dependent Children (plus food stamps & medicaid). This is limited to a specific amount for each child an unemployed single Mother may have. I do not know what the amount is, but the structure of this assistance has been a source of criticism by people saying that it is paying women to not work & to have children. This stance has always puzzled me because several scientific studies have shown that when Mothers stay at home with their young children that the children are better adjusted & working women have been criticized for working while someone else takes care of their children (for most women it is not an option for them to be able to stay home) – but when it comes to the poor, they want these women out of the house & working full time. AFDC may not be the best solution, but it does give children somewhat of a chance.

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley I’ve had just one minimum wage job, back in 1962 when it was $1.15 per hour. Once I earned my first raise, I left the behand, and haven’t missed it one bit. And Thanksgiving I’ve never had to ask for welfare.

Thanks everyone. I think the fact that it’s too complicated to answer speaks volumes about the reliability of the original claim I saw on Sodahead. I thought as much, considering the source. Also, contrasting @CWOTUS’ answer with those of @Symbeline and @Linda_Owl plus @Paradox25‘s link show there are no easy, bumper sticker solutions to this. I understand where both sentiments are coming from.

laureth's avatar

If you’ve used your lifetime limit on welfare (generally five years or less), it pays more to get a minimum wage job.

If there are no jobs in the area, since even places like McDonald’s have to turn huge numbers of applicants away (others too), it will make more to be on welfare than to have no job. Of course, that’s what welfare is for, so you don’t starve or have to steal at a time like that.

Do you consider unemployment benefits to be welfare? Those payments are based on your previous job (a certain percentage of the wage), so sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less. Since once you take a job, it’s harder to look for another, more fitting one, I can understand why people would wait a little longer if they have some kind of benefit coming in. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco concluded that “in the absence of extended benefits, the unemployment rate would have been about 0.4 percentage point lower at the end of 2009, or about 9.6% rather than 10.0%,” and that recipients of unemployment benefits stayed unemployed only an average of 1.6 weeks longer than unemployed folks who received no benefits. It’s a very small difference, and may mean simply that they held out for a more fitting job, rather than because they wanted to be a “moocher,” as Ayn Rand would say.

ETpro's avatar

@laureth Excellent answer. Thanks.

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