Saturday, May 17, 2008

White Folks on Welfare

The racialization of relief was one of the great propaganda successes of the Conservative movement, as a way to play on racist assumptions about blacks in order to destroy political support for the minimal US welfare state.

This was the logic behind Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” comments, as a way of playing the race card to discredit the concept of poor relief.

Yet, there were, and are, a lot of white folks on assistance. A geography of white folks on welfare in Montgomery County will demonstrate this.

First, using the census definitions, we can divide up “welfare” as two kinds…SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, which requires some form of disability to qualify, and public assistance, i.e. “welfare”, which today means mostly TANF. The census doesn’t provide stats for food stamps, which is a fairly important public assistance program.

Combining SSI and “welfare”, around $50M in public assistance flows to white folks annually in this county. Lots of money being pumped into the local economy via poor and disabled relief.

Public Assistance

This is what people think of when they think of welfare or "relief". Nowadays this is mostly TANF, and these numbers do not include the Food Stamp program, which would be quite interesting to map out. Nor does it include things like Section 8 vouchers.

Breaking down the welfare numbers by census tract, looking not at numbers of people but aggregate annual welfare income per tract, showing which tracts are getting the most white folks welfare.

And then mapping it out. Expected concentrations on the east side and North Dayton, but note how this suburbanizes, with concentrations in certain suburban areas (like Miami Twp, Riverside, and Northridge) and then smaller aggregates in suburban tracts. Whats key is that there is at least some public assistance in a number of suburban areas, including Kettering and Washington Township.

A close up for Dayton and close-in areas:

Supplemental Security Income is administered by Social Security, and according to their website has the following qualifiers to determine eligibility:

Anyone who is:

aged (age 65 or older);
blind; or

And, who:

has limited income; and
has limited resources;
and is a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens;

So one can see there are a bunch of conditions to be met. Yet a lot of white folk in Montgomery County meet them, as can be seen by the pie chart at the start of the post.

Again, rank ordering the tracts based on aggregate SSI annual income

And mapping it out, again the concentrations on the east side and Old North Dayton show up. But also quite a bit of distribution beyond these areas, including in southwest Washington Township, an affluent suburban areas where one wouldn’t expect people to be on government assistance of any kind.But what’s notable is the widespread distribution of assistance beyond the expected concentrations; SSI in substantial numbers is found throughout suburbia.

What this mapping exercise demonstrates is that, contrary to racist opinions, its not just blacks on public assistance. A considerable amount of money is flowing to the county for white folks’ welfare, both the traditional “welfare”, and conditional SSI assistance. What’s really noticeable, too, are the concentrations and expansion beyond the inner city, destroying the stereotype that welfare of any kind is found only in inner Dayton.

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