First, many critics believe that the “welfare rolls” are overflowing with public assistance recipients. Actually, the average monthly participation was only 4,375,022 in 2010. That’s an average of 1,393 people for each of the 3,141 counties in the United States each month. The 1,118,588 adult recipients compose less than four-tenths of one percent of the U.S. population at any given time.
Critics claim that “welfare queens” give birth to many children in order to get more money. In fact, the average family size is less than 2 ˝ people.* There were 3,323,369 children in those families in the average month.
TANF rolls are very fluid. Most families collect benefits for only a few months at a time. They move in and out of poverty as their circumstances change. Nearly all adult TANF recipients have a work history. But let’s look at who gets to be poor in the United States.
People who are so physically or mentally disabled that they can’t hold a job,
People who are capable of learning, but for one reason or another are uneducated – functionally or financially illiterate,
People who are just not capable of learning how to do complicated jobs that pay well,
People who have incredibly bad luck. Yes, they do exist. I’ve known many. One thing after another keeps happening to them, interfering with their ability to get and keep a job.
People with drug, alcohol, and mental health problems.
These are the adults who receive TANF benefits.
That brings us to my favorite myth – that families collect welfare benefits for their entire lives, and for multiple generations. That is not, and has never been, true. Families headed by able-bodied adults can collect TANF benefits for only 60 months –a total of five years – in their lifetimes. Yes, really. Nationwide, only about two percent of TANF families reach that limit and lose their benefits each year.*