Welfare Reform Killed Thousands, But Data Be Damned

While a popular neo-liberal and conservative nostrum is that the states are the “laboratories of democracy”, much of the time these labs are cranking out crystal meth. Robert Waldmann explains (boldface mine):

So what have we learned from a state level welfare reform experiment ? Well we now know that welfare reform kills people

Research of Peter Muennig, Zohn Rosen and Elizabeth Ty Wilde“:

From 1994 to 1999, Florida randomly selected a group of welfare recipients into either the Family Transition Program (FTP), … or the then-standard Aid for Families with Dependent Children welfare program (AFDC“participants in the experimental group had a 16 percent higher mortality rate than members of the control group (hazard ratio: 1.16; 95% confidence interval: 1.14, 1.19; p < 0.01). This amounts to nine months of life expectancy lost between the ages of thirty and seventy for people in FTP."

Odd that this statistically significant result from an actual experiment has had no influence on the debate at all. There is little point having laboratories of democracy if people ignore the experimental results and just go with their prejudices as we do.

Waldmann notes elsewhere that “p < 0.01" is an understatement; were one to calculate the p-value based on the z-score, p is somewhere around 2 out a billion. It's also worth noting these data are from Florida, which had one of the more comprehensive and supposedly humane programs, so the death toll is probably worse in other states. Waldmann again:

I think the scientifically solid result has been almost completely ignored, because it is politically incorrect. Criticism of welfare reform is barely allowed. Noting the overwhelming evidence that it kills would count as a 4 pinocchio pants on fire fact. Few serious people would dare [admit] that they find statistical analysis of randomized controlled trials convincing.

But hell, we fixed welfare (that is made it cheaper) so conservatives wouldn’t pound Democrats over false accusations of ‘socialism.’

A rousing success on all levels. Except for the dead people.

(but fuck ’em, they’re probably Buono voters).

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1 Response to Welfare Reform Killed Thousands, But Data Be Damned

  1. Min says:

    Brad DeLong’s blog relayed the question of why the mortality rate of young American women increased in the 1990s. See http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/11/us-women-are-dying-younger-than-their-mothers-and-no-one-knows-why-the-view-from-the-roasterie-xxiv-november-1-2013.html . Based in part on the timing I wondered whether welfare reform was a factor. Maybe so, eh?

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