Whites ben­e­fit most from gov­ern­ment safety nets

Aid lifted 6.2 mil­lion work­ing-class whites out of poverty in 2014.

Star Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By TRACY JAN Wash­ing­ton Post

Work­ing-class whites are the big­gest beneficiaries of fed­eral poverty-re­duc­tion pro­grams, even though blacks and His­pan­ics have sub­stan­tially higher rates of poverty, ac­cord­ing to a new study re­leased Thurs­day by the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties.

Gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance and tax cred­its lifted 6.2 mil­lion work­ing-class whites out of poverty in 2014, more than any other racial or eth­nic de­mo­graphic. Half of all work­ing-age adults with­out col­lege de­grees lifted out of poverty by safety-net pro­grams are white; nearly a quar­ter are black and a fifth are His­panic.

The re­sult does not sim­ply re­flect the fact that there are more white peo­ple in the coun­try. The per­cent­age of oth­er­wise poor whites lifted from poverty by gov­ern­ment safe­tynet pro­grams is higher, at 44 per­cent, com­pared with 35 per­cent of oth­er­wise poor mi­nori­ties, the study con­cluded. Among work­ing-class mi­nori­ties, blacks also ben­e­fit sig­nif­i­cantly from gov­ern­ment pro­grams, with 43 per­cent of oth­er­wise poor blacks be­ing lifted from poverty by the safety net. Only 28 per­cent of oth­er­wise poor His­pan­ics were lifted from poverty by th­ese pro­grams.

“There is a per­cep­tion out there that the safety net is only for mi­nori­ties. … It’s also quite im­por­tant to whites, par­tic­u­larly the white work­ing class,” said Isaac Shapiro, a se­nior fel­low at the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties and one of the re­port’s au­thors.

The Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties, a left-lean­ing think tank in Wash­ing­ton, an­a­lyzed work­ing-age, non-col­lege ed­u­cated adult beneficiaries of more than a dozen gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing food stamps, wel­fare, hous­ing sub­si­dies, tax cred­its, home en­ergy as­sis­tance, school lunch pro­grams, and So­cial Se­cu­rity.

With­out the gov­ern­ment pro­grams, 24 per­cent of whites were poor, com­pared with 43 per­cent of blacks and 36 per­cent of His­pan­ics. Af­ter the pro­grams, 13 per­cent of whites were poor, com­pared with 24 per­cent of blacks and 26 per­cent of His­pan­ics.

Work­ing-class whites drawn to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign may be par­tic­u­larly hard hit by the poli­cies of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, Shapiro said, in­clud­ing the push to dis­man­tle Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care re­form law and chang­ing the way food stamps and other pro­grams for the poor are ad­min­is­tered. The safety net ap­pears to be even more crit­i­cal, he said, in states with a large share of work­ing-class whites, in­clud­ing the pre­vi­ously blue states of Wis­con­sin, Iowa and Ohio that flipped to Trump in 2016.

“A miss­ing el­e­ment of the po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion has been the de­gree to which gov­ern­ment pro­grams are im­por­tant to the work­ing class in gen­eral, and the white work­ing class in par­tic­u­lar,” Shapiro said.

MICHAEL S. WIL­LIAMSON • Wash­ing­ton Post

The per­cent­age of poor whites lifted from poverty by gov­ern­ment safety-net pro­grams is higher than poor mi­nori­ties, a study found.

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