Feedback Loop: Identity and Welfare

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 01:31 PM

One in six Americans receives some sort of government benefit. That seems like a high number and we wondered how it affected both one’s individual identity and the economic identity of the nation as a whole. We spoke with s Dr. Bob Lerman, a professor of Economics at American University, and a fellow at the Urban Institute, who specializes in employment and social policy. He agreed that there’s a link between identity and benefits, saying, “The less income you have, the more benefits you get. And I think that is where the pride element comes into play.” We also heard from listeners throughout the show.

Suzanne Joblonski commented on Facebook:

I am thankful that there are such benefits available for my family at this time. Very little money is coming in my household and to spend cash on food depletes what it needs to pay for such as shelter, clothing, transportation etc. I am already frugal but one can't be when providing basic items such as a roof over one's head.


And we received a great response via text message when we asked listeners if they were on benefits and how that affected their identities.

From Columbia, SC:

No I do not receive those benefits. I did when I was a child. It made going to the grocery store an embarrassing ordeal. We wouldn't go in and my mother had to go in alone. We never thought about the fact that she too was very uncomfortable. Now I will do whatever it takes for my family to never have to feel that way. It has served as a driving force in my life.

From Oklahoma City, OK:

I'm on unemployment. Makes me feel like crap but what can I do? Taking some job that pays less than unemployment isn't an option while I have two kids full time.

From Kearney, NE:

I don't [receive benefits] but I don't think I'd be too proud to take the help if I needed to.

From Poplar Bluff, MO:

No I don't. I didn't come to this country to take hand outs or give them out. I came here to build a better life founded on my personal responsibility. Those federal programs are a joke. All they do is reward peoples' failures and their lack of responsibility under the disguise of good intentions.

From Oklahoma City, OK:

I'm 22, male, in college. Me and my roommate are applying for federal assistance because we can't afford food right now. We scavenge our campuses for food.

From Pontiac, MI:

It’s ridiculous we let our society do this. Extended Families should do the supporting when a member is down on luck or out of a job


And we received calls into 877 8 MYTAKE, including this story:

I work at a national retail chain, I work hard, I work 40 hours a week. I pick up shifts. I work six days a week and everyone at my store is on food stamps an dI know those people are working hard. I think that the way people perceive food stamps as people who don’t have a job or people who are too lazy to get one go and get them, but if you’ve ever had to wait in that line, I think you’d understand, it’s not easy, but sometimes it’s something someone has to do.


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