Ms. Broom has been on public assistance for fourteen years. At nineteen, she was diagnosed with depression and lower back problems, which have become aggravated by bouts of eating disorders over the years.
This caricature of the classic welfare recipient as lazy slob has persisted for decades, but does it bear any semblance to the reality of life on state aid in the United States?
While it has been repeatedly proved a myth through research conducted by state and federal agencies, universities and think tanks, and religious and private charities, it continues to be a commonly held stereotype among a large segment of the population.
Conservative writer Terry Jeffrey claimed that, according to the US government’s own numbers, ”109,631,000 Americans on welfare, outnumbering the ‘105,862,000 full-time year-round workers in the United States.”
However, upon closer scrutiny, his claim is a bit disingenuous. While his numbers are technically accurate, he is making an apples to oranges comparison.
How, you may ask?
First, the number of welfare recipients includes the elderly and children, who are not part of our primary workforce.
Second, it also uses an extremely broad definition of the term “welfare.” In addition to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, he also includes such programs as Women,
Infants, and Children, or WIC, which is a food subsidy program specifically for minors, and Medicaid, which are far larger programs than TANF.