Mothers -- Transitioning from Welfare to Corporate America
Welfare in the United States is both a complex and controversial subject. The issue focuses on several aspects of public policy: economics, cultural diversity, actualization, incentives, education/training, taxation and even the actual role of the government. We first begin this study with an overview of the idea of a state welfare system, its origins, development, purpose, and particularly view the manner in which the welfare system has changed since the Great Depression. It is then important to understand the implications of the 1988 Family Support Act (FSA) and the change in attitude and policy regarding welfare, and the newer focus on finding ways to train, retrain, or educate those on welfare so they can find gainful employment -- particularly those who move into the corporate world. Challenges, interventions, and potential outcomes are examined, among which looking at the juxtaposition between the fiscal output for society and the potential gains. One of the real challenges is the philosophy behind government subsidies, going back to the ancient world -- is it easier to provide food for the poor or to teach them how to fish. In the short-term, it is less expensive to simply pay for housing and food, sign up for Medicare, and provide a bus pass than it is to provide years of training, plus benefits. However, in the long-term, moving a welfare recipient to the corporate world accomplishes a number of very desirable outcomes: 1) Increases the tax by having a higher wage earner provide to the fiscal base; 2) It serves as a demographic and psychological role model as a success story; 3) It helps remove prejudice from more economically solvent individuals about the welfare system, and 4) It allows for greater possibilities of programs and job opportunities for the working poor and welfare recipients.
II. The Welfare Model -- A Brief History
a. Welfare is a broad public policy term that holds that it is the responsibility of society to provide a minimal level of social support and well-being to all citizens. This is provided, in most developed countries, by the government, charities, informal social groups, some religious donations, and even inter-governmental organizations. In the United States, the Welfare system began during the Great Depression with the view that helping those in need would support a better society, fuel less poverty, allow more educational benefits, and reduce crime (Pierson, 2006).
III. Welfare-to-Work Strategies -- An Evaluation
a. In 1988 the Family Support Act (FSA) required the government to provide education, employment and support services to adults receiving cash welfare assistance. This, at the time, was known as AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). FSA encouraged states and local administrators to serve welfare populations with whom they had previously little contact, and to move towards adult education, language preparation, child care so parents could actualize, and job assistance once done with education and degree (Galster, 1996).
a. Most welfare recipients eventually find jobs, and most do not stay on welfare for long. The real challenge for the welfare-to-work program is to improve on the rates of job acceptance and training folks so that they stay employed longer, become career oriented, and build their skill-set to find better jobs. Above all, the intervention programs should be designed to ensure that those previously on welfare who have undergone training do not return to the welfare rolls. This not only increases their own self-esteem and removes a fiscal burden on the system; the taxes paid by the gainfully employed contribute to the social program agenda (Hamilton, 2002).
V. Challenges and Outcomes
a. There are numerous challenges to the system of moving welfare recipients to the working world, particularly the corporate world. Providing short-term training for 6-12 months is relatively inexpensive, but the type of jobs available for that training are typically not long-term corporate or career oriented, with some exceptions. Even training in auto mechanics, plumbing, electrical work, etc. takes longer than a 1 year program. A 2-year community college degree allows for matriculation into a BA program or professional program (e.g. health, etc.), but again, offers lower paying jobs that the corporate world. In fact, it is now often difficult to move forward in the corporate world without an MBA. Still, the incentives to move from entry level BA or Business focused degrees provide several incentives: they allow the former welfare recipient to act as a role model, proving that upward mobility is possible; they change views and prejudices in the working world that may view welfare recipients as somehow incapable of actualization, oftentimes the person moving into the corporate world has greater empathy and helps open up more job opportunities for the working poor or welfare recipients, and finally, higher salaries often mean higher tax revenues for the government (Telleen & Sayad, 2002).
VI. Societal and Long-Term Benefits
a. Social welfare in the United States has moved from being a government safety net during tough economic times (e.g. The Great Depression, etc.) to a situation that, at times, can be a multigenerational trap. Working at a low-paying or minimum wage job, after taxes, often means that the welfare recipient has less money to feed the family, less benefits (health, insurance, food assistance, transportation assistance, etc.). This is a DE motivator, of course. Instead, for society in the long run, the benefits of moving the welfare recipient to a corporate job are social, cultural, fiscal, and psychological (Burnett, 2010). In addition, studies show that welfare mothers who have undergone educational training and who work within the corporate world have far less depression, have more of a stable environment, less behavioral problems with their children, and an overall higher perception of their own quality of life (Gyamfi, Brooks-Gun, & Jackson, 2005).
Burnett, R. (2010, May 28). Social Welfre: Does it Really Help or Does it Really Hurt? Retrieved from The Cypress Times: http://www.thecypresstimes.com/article/Columnists/The_Hard_Truth/SOCIAL_WELFARE_DOES_IT_REALLY_HELP_OR_DOES_IT_REALLY_HURT/30509
This is a social argument for welfare reform from the point-of-view of a journalist and social policy expert (public administration and comparative studies). The major view is that to retool the system and make it work, one needs to look at the qualifications for welfare as those who really need it as opposed to those who prefer it. Low wage earners (the working poor) should not be penalized, but should possibly have their salaries subsidized since they are trying to better themselves. In addition, the author is adamant that no undocumented person receive any welfare benefits since they have little incentive to move out of the system or to fiscally contribute.
"Low wage earners could receive welfare benefits to help subsidize areas in their lives where they need the most assistance. However, to maintain eligibility, they would have to enroll in college or a program at least part time that will allow them to acquire viable skills to become candidates for gainful employment. If participants fail to enroll and/or maintain a passing standard set by their perspective institutions, their eligibility status will be immediately terminated, thus cutting off all benefits formally received. This way there is at least a serious incentive for people to put themselves in a better position for more earning potential instead of tax payers endlessly pouring financial assistance into the lives of those who attempt to do nothing."
"… what kind of incentive is one given to get off of social welfare when they can receive an apartment with central air / heating, carpeting, a garden tub in the bathroom, and a nice garage along with other amenities? The answer is none what so ever. When those on social housing are made to be comfortable and are able to obtain the type of living quarters a normal working person is able to afford, it often kills the motivation to become self-sufficient."
Galster, G. (Ed.). (1996). Reality and Research: Social Science and U.S. Urban Policy since 1960. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.
This book is a non-technical, but still robustly footnoted and researched, introduction to urban problems, policies, and applied social research in the United States since 1960s. The conceptual framework, shared by most of the authors and essays, is the idea that policy and policy research has undergone a dramatic evolution in the past four decades. The template holds that the role of public policy research can only be accomplished by looking at the causal relationships between three key players: policymakers, those who benefit, and those who enforce.
"Policy research is not done in a vacuum, and cannot be viewed as portraying a fully 'objective' portrait of social problems" (6).
"There seems to be bipartisan consensus that welfare must be reformed to remove its pernicious work disincentives, by requiring work or training as a precondition for eligibility… and by installing a time limit on eligibility" (60).
Gyamfi, P., Brooks-Gun, J., & Jackson, A. (2005). Moving Towards Work: The Effects of Employment Experiences on Welfare-Dependent Women and their Children. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment,…