The Corner

Food Stamps as a Political Test

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that nearly half of all children will receive food stamps at some point in their childhood.

The estimate comes from an analysis of 30 years of national data, and it bolsters other recent evidence on the pervasiveness of youngsters at economic risk. It suggests that almost everyone knows a family who has received food stamps, or will in the future, said lead author Mark Rank, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis. . . .

Rank and Cornell University sociologist Thomas Hirschl studied data from a nationally representative survey of 4,800 U.S. households interviewed annually from 1968 through 1997 by the University of Michigan. About 18,000 adults and children were involved.

Overall, about 49 percent of all children were on food stamps at some point by the age of 20, the analysis found. That includes 90 percent of black children and 37 percent of whites. The analysis didn’t include other ethnic groups.

Your reaction to this story is a pretty good way to reveal your politics. I see at least four possibilities:

You react with horror and argue that government should create more policies to protect families from bouts of unemployment and poverty.

You react with horror and argue that government should eliminate more of the existing policies that make fathers dispensable and jobs too hard to create.

You react with satisfaction that the government’s safety net is working as designed.

You react with caution, noting that the data set ends before federal welfare reform was implemented.