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This article is about financial assistance paid by government organizations. For other uses of term welfare, see welfare.

Welfare is financial assistance paid by the government to certain entities or groups of people who are unable to support themselves alone, or are perceived by the government to be able to function more effectively with financial assistance. Some welfare is general, while some are specific and can only be invoked under certain circumstances, such as a scholarship. Welfare can be given to both individuals, or be given to companies or entities, which take place as corporate welfare.

Reasons for individuals being unable to support themselves alone might be unemployment, disability, lack of education or some other reason. Assistance may also take form of other relief, such as tax credits for working mothers. Welfare is known by a variety of names in different countries, all with the fundamental purpose of providing an economic or social safety net for disadvantaged members of society. Almost all developed nations provide some kind of safety net of this kind; the governments of those nations where this is especially prominent are known as welfare states.

The desired outcome and purpose of welfare varies. For individual welfare for the non-disabled, the purpose of welfare often is to provide those who require financial assistance in order to attain a higher income in the first place, especially for those who are perceived to be stuck in the cycle of poverty. The justification for financial assistance to such individuals often cites the requirement for existing financial resources in order to attain tertiary education that would allow individuals to gain more income, and thereby get out of welfare eventually. Welfare for the disabled, in contrast, does not eventually expect non-dependency, and the justification is more philosophical. Welfare may be given to entities as corporate welfare in order to provide capita to industry are perceived by the government to need financial assistance in order to survive or to expand but are thought by the government to be valuable industries eventually and will eventually become non-dependent.

Some of these ideal outcomes and purposes, as well as welfare's effectiveness have been challenged by political lobbies such as those who oppose big government, such as minarchists or libertarians.

Personal welfare

The amounts paid to individuals are typically very low, and may fall below the poverty line. Recipients must usually demonstrate a low level of income such as by way of "means testing", or financial hardship, or that they satisfy some other requirement such as childcare responsibilities or disability. Those receiving unemployment benefits may also have to regularly demonstrate that they are periodically searching for employment. Some countries assign specific jobs to recipients who must work in these roles in order for welfare payments to continue. In the United States and Canada, such programs are known as workfare.

Corporate welfare

Main article: Corporate welfare

Corporate welfare is supposed welfare on a larger scale for entities and companies. The term is often pejorative, examples of corporate welfare include subsidizing an industry which is struggling currently but financial assistance, such as in the form of tax holidays will allow it to become useful to the government or extremely valuable. Examples of this include sponsoring petroleum companies in Iraq, where the infrastructure is relatively primitive and is receiving aid from the United States to upgrade its infrastructure with the justification that Iraq will be able to obtain much more oil eventually and compensate for the cost of welfare.

Welfare may also assist schools, especially primary and secondary schools that are not government-run but fulfill government policies, or are already doing well, and financial aid is thought to help them reach their "full potential" with financing of facilities. Significant funds are allocated in the form of Edusave scholarships and bursaries in order to reward students.

Welfare in the United States

See also: social security (United States)

Welfare is an appropriation of taxpayer money given to a person, business or entity without expectation of goods or services in return. In less charitable terms, it has been called income redistribution from the wealthy to the impoverished. Welfare has many forms and can include personal welfare as well as corporate welfare, which includes subsidies for corporate farms, oil companies, grants for research in fields such as embryonic stem cells or alternative fuels, and grants to institutions such as the United Nations.

In the United States, personal welfare is normally given to households with children, often headed by single mothers and even these households have only been able to access benefits for a maximum of five years per lifetime of the adult recipient since 1996. Before 1996, United States personal welfare for households with children was first named Aid to Dependent Children, which was later called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). In 1996 as part of welfare reform, AFDC was replaced by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which included more limits on the amount of time an individual or family can receive welfare. Since 1996, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is arguably not welfare at all in the common United States context of the term, has largely replaced AFDC as the primary anti-poverty program in the United States.

With regard to personal welfare for the individuals without children, most U.S. states had been providing welfare benefits to single adults and childless married couples since the Great Depression, but the number of states doing so declined steeply during the 1990s, and many of the states that still provide such benefits use methods other than cash payments to render the assistance. Today only two states — New Jersey and Utah — still provide cash benefits to poverty-stricken adults who do not have child dependents. These programs were often known officially by such names as Home Relief and General Assistance.

The field of welfare often also involves program evaluation to determine if the welfare programs are working, how well they are working, and how they could be improved.

See also

Further reading

  • Brown, Michael K. (1999). Race, Money, and the American Welfare State. Cornell University Press, New York.
  • Blum, B.B., & Francis, J.F. (2002). Welfare research perspectives: Past, present, and future, 2002 edition. National Center for Children in Poverty, New York.
  • Chase-Lansdale, P.L., & Duncan, G.J. (2001). "Lessons learned." In G.J. Duncan & P.L. Chase-Lansdale (Eds.), For better and for worse: Welfare reform and the well-being of children and families (pp. 307-322). Russell Sage, New York. (ED 459 940)
  • Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2002). America's children: Key national indicators of well-being 2002. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.
  • Gennetian, L.A., Duncan, G.J., Knox, V.W., Vargas, W.G., Clark-Kauffman, E., & London, A.S. (2002, May). How welfare and work policies for parents affect adolescents: A synthesis of research. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. (ED 465 122)
  • Piven, Frances Fox , Cloward, Richard (1971) Regulating the Poor : The Functions of Public Welfare
  • Ripke, M.N., & Crosby, D.A. (2002). "The effects of welfare reform on the educational outcomes of parents and their children." In W. Secada (Ed.), Review of research in education 26, 2002 (pp. 181-262). American Educational Research Association, Washington, D.C.
  • Sherman, A. (2001, August). How children fare in welfare experiments appears to hinge on income. Children's Defense Fund, Washington, D.C.
  • Weil, A., & Finegold, K. (2002). "Introduction." In A. Weil & K. Finegold, Welfare reform: The next act (pp. xxi-xxxi). The Urban Institute Press, Washington D.C.
  • Zaslow, M.J., McGroder, S.M., & Moore, K.A. (2000). "The national evaluation of welfare-to-work strategies: Impacts on young children and their families two years after enrollment". Findings from the Child Outcomes Study. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C. (ED 450 963)
  • Zaslow, M., Moore, K.A., Trout, K., Scarpa, J.P., & Vandivere, S. (2002). "How are children faring under welfare reform?" In A. Weil & K. Finegold, Welfare reform: The next act (pp. 79-102). Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press.
  • Zedlewski, S.R. (2002, Winter/Spring). "Family economic resources in the post-reform era." The Future of Children, 12(1), pp. 121-145. (ED 464 168)

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