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"Welfare Magnets" and Benefit Decline: Symbolic Problems and Substantive Consequences

Sanford F. Schram and Gary Krueger
Publius
Vol. 24, No. 4, Interstate Relations (Autumn, 1994), pp. 61-82
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3330584
Page Count: 22
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"Welfare Magnets" and Benefit Decline: Symbolic Problems and Substantive Consequences
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Abstract

In response to concern about "welfare migration," some states have been freezing benefit levels and trying to institute lower benefits for newly arrived out-of-state applicants. There is also evidence that rising welfare rolls lead states not to raise benefits. Yet, interstate variation in welfare benefits has narrowed over the last two decades. There is also evidence that while interstate competition, or comparison of benefit levels, discourages high-benefit states from raising benefits, states look more at themselves then they look at each other. The most significant factor affecting AFDC benefit-levels appears to lie in the intergovernmental arrangements for financing public assistance (i.e., states often allow Food Stamps and Medicaid to substitute for AFDC). In addition, the migration of poor female-headed families is patterned after the migration of the population in general; they move to where there is job growth. A major political consequence of stressing welfare migration may be its symbolic value in reinforcing prejudices against welfare recipients.

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