Urban Institute Study Finds States with Larger Black Populations Provide Less Welfare Assistance to the Poor

States with larger black populations provide less cash assistance to their citizens, according to a recent study published by the Urban Institute.

The study found that the majority – 63 percent – of African-Americans live in the 25 states where the lowest proportion of families living in poverty receive welfare benefits.

Each year, states receive a federal block grant under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program restricted to low-income families with children. Under TANF, states have the power to distribute this money following their own guidelines. As a result, there are drastic variations in how difficult it is for families to qualify for and maintain assistance, how much money they receive and for how long.

Nationally, only 23 out of 100 families living in poverty received assistance in 2015, a sharp decrease from when the program began more than 20 years ago. But this number doesn’t reveal the wide variation among states.

In Louisiana, only 4 out of 100 families living in poverty received assistance in 2014, but in Vermont that number rises to 78.

The difference in the amount of money these families are collecting is just as stark. In Mississippi, for example, families can only receive $170 per month, but in Alaska that number jumps to more than $900.

Generally, the states where it is more difficult to qualify for assistance are also more restrictive in their requirements to maintain benefits, in their sanctions for failure to follow rules, and in the amount of time families can receive money.

Though numerous factors were linked to stricter and less generous welfare policies, race continued to resurface, regardless of other variables.

“The race variable comes to the floor when we control for things like the share of the state legislature that’s Democratic,” Heather Hahn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and one of the study’s co-authors, tells U.S. News.

The study points to previous research, which suggests that people might perceive those receiving social welfare as having “personal shortcomings,” instead of facing uncontrollable circumstances, if they don’t identify with those individuals. In other words, a state’s white population is more likely to support anti-poverty programs if they believe those in poverty are mainly white, as opposed to a different race.

Social welfare has a long history of racial differences, Hahn says. The first major national cash welfare program, which was locally regulated, was created for “moral” and “deserving” children of single mothers and had restrictions excluding many black women.

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Source: U.S. News & World Report | Casey Leins