Federal welfare benefits pay more than minimum wage jobs in 35 states, according to a new report from the Cato Institute.
Hawaii provides the most benefits, or $49,175 a year. The District of Columbia provides the second highest welfare benefits in the country, providing $43,099 a year.
Cato’s calculations were based upon how much a mother with two children would receive from the seven most widely used welfare programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Medicaid; Women, Infants and Children Program; Emergency Food Assistance Program; housing assistance and utilities assistance.
In 12 states and D.C., the amount she would receive from those programs exceeds what she could earn working full-time at a $15-an-hour job, according to Cato.
In 10 states and D.C., welfare benefits pay more than the first year, pretax salary for a teacher. In the three most generous jurisdictions (Hawaii, D.C. and Massachusetts), welfare benefits pay more than an entry-level computer programmer.
Further, because welfare benefits are tax free, an individual leaving welfare for a job that pays the same as the welfare benefits they receive would actually lose income in 11 states and D.C.
Cato emphasized that “there is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy. Indeed, surveys of them consistently show their desire for a job. But they’re also not stupid. If you pay them more not to work than they can earn by working, many will choose not to work.”