Julia’s mother: Why a single mom is better off with a $29,000 job and welfare than taking a $69,000 job


The U.S. welfare system sure creates some crazy disincentives to working your way up the ladder. Benefits stacked upon benefits can mean it is financially better, at least in the short term, to stay at a lower-paying jobs rather than taking a higher paying job and losing those benefits. This is called the “welfare cliff.”

Let’s take the example of a single mom with two kids, 1 and 4. She has a $29,000 a year job, putting the kids in daycare during the day while she works.

As the above chart  – via Gary Alexander, Pennsylvania’s secretary of Public Welfare — shows, the single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income and benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income & benefits of $57,045.

It would sure be tempting for that mom to keep the status quo rather than take the new job, even though the new position might lead to further career advancement and a higher standard of living. I guess this is something the Obama White House forgot to mention in its “Life of Julia” cartoons extolling government assistance.

217 thoughts on “Julia’s mother: Why a single mom is better off with a $29,000 job and welfare than taking a $69,000 job

  1. Without a doubt welfare was crated to keep the poor poor and the needy needy….when you have a group eating out of your hands then promising them the world they will vote for you every time…prior to welfare blacks stayed married kept jobs and had medical insurance..but they also voted republican.

  2. This also is an enormous disincentive to marry. If parents cohabitate but do not formally marry then they are better off financially than otherwise. If the father is a low income worker then the benefits of staying single are even greater.

  3. Guess I’m a little late to this poor white man’s pity party… James P. are you really saying that for a difference of a mere $262 a year, that the average single mom of two kids will choose to stay in a job with no future +welfare because the the job with a future pays $232 less??? I have to ask – are you insane? Wow!, you definitely have a extremely low opinion of unwed mothers who choose to have their babies instead of aborting them. Unbelievable that you pin so much importance upon that $232 that you think that meager amount would be a real influence on anyone’s choice. Maybe you’re the one with very poor judgement as to “family values” and perhaps that $232 is way, way to important to you. Are you engaging in ridiculous bean counting of beans that are so small they shouldn’t even matter to any one. $232 … damn, that’s a heartbreaker! This hypothetical “moocher mom” could declare bankruptcy every day for the rest of her life and not touch ONE of Donald Trumps’ bankruptcies (I think he’s working on his 3rd right now), icon of entrepreneurial spirit that HE is. Unbelievable lack of proportional perspective here. I’m a white male by the way, 59 yrs. old, formerly a proud Republican for 35yrs., now ashamed of most of my voting for those years. Now a vigorous, determined independent because of nonsensical postures such as this. I expect that the single mom’s that do make such a choice do so because of factors other than $ , ie. stress, fear, cultural pressure, fatigue, being overwhelmed, etc. Intangible things that touch all of our lives but can’t be factored in a bean counters calculator. These later things should be met with compassion, mercy, forgiveness, patience, instruction, counseling and such. All of which are costly, most especially to
    our judgemental pride. No one promised anyone that helping others would be as easy as quantifying gobs of numbers and statistics. It’s incredibly hard and THAT is what makes it so important. Think about it.
    “When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor, they call me a communist.” – Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara

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