by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The president’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has a new report out on the relationship between large welfare programs and work, which echoes many of the themes I learned while administering such programs in New York City.
First, it identifies a fairly large group of non-disabled working age adults who receive various government benefits but do not work at all, though they could — and if they did, they would be significantly better off.
The number of such people in Medicaid, for instance, is about 9.1 million. What’s more, 55 percent of non-disabled Medicaid recipients ages 18–49 and without children do not work at all, a higher rate of non-work than for adults with a child between the ages of 1 and 5. Think about that for a moment — Medicaid recipients who are parents of children under 6 are working more than Medicaid recipients who are not parents at all. And if just half those 9.1 million people rejoined the labor force, the frustratingly low labor force participation rate would spike to 65 percent — our highest rate in eight years. (Every additional million people in the labor force would increase the rate by 0.4 percentage points.)
The numbers are just as stark when it comes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), which provides benefits to more than 10 million non-disabled working-age adults who do not work at all.