Sunday, September 04, 2011

Black TANF utilization by state

In a column for Taki's Mag, John Derbyshire highlighted an interesting table from the Department of Health and Human Services showing the state-level distributions of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by race. The piece considers the so-called "slavery tax" and whether it is something we can--or should--continue to pay (or collect--though "pay" is the far more accurate verb to describe Derb readers), and the table's relevance comes from his making the point that as soon as one starts delving into the subject of welfare, race inevitably becomes an issue:
As soon as you start to look at the numbers, though, you come up against the race issue. Here are the 2007-08 TANF tables—that’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federal program—broken up by state and race. So for example, in the state of Maryland, which is 30 percent black, 80 percent of TANF-receiving families are black.
Aside from the table naturally catching my attention, I wondered if the Derb fished for and then used an especially startling example of black overrepresentation to make his point. Less than one-third of the population but four-fifths of the active TANF cases? That certainly makes blacks look bad!

The following table ranks states by the level of black representation among TANF beneficiaries relative to the percentage of the total population that is black (black TANF % / black population %), expressed as an index in which 1.00 represents exactly proportional usage, anything less than 1 indicates lower utilization and anything greater than 1 indicates disproportionately high utilization:

1) Wisconsin
2) Minnesota
3) Nebraska
4) Idaho
5) Iowa
6) North Dakota
7) Maine
8) Utah
8) Wyoming
10) Oregon
11) Pennsylvania
12) Vermont
13) Indiana
14) Kansas
15) Nevada
16) Michigan
17) Illinois
18) Oklahoma
19) New Jersey
20) New Hampshire
21) Ohio
22) Arkansas
23) Arizona
24) Missouri
25) Connecticut
26) Alaska
26) Kentucky
28) Montana
28) Tennessee
30) Washington
31) Delaware
32) Massachusetts
32) South Dakota
34) Florida
34) West Virginia
36) Virginia
37) California
38) North Carolina
39) Maryland
40) Alabama
41) New York
42) Georgia
43) Louisiana
43) South Carolina
45) Texas
46) Colorado
47) Mississippi
48) Rhode Island
49) New Mexico
50) Hawaii

A visualization of the black data is available here.

Rather than cherry pick a state that made blacks look especially bad, the Derb chose from near the bottom of the list, a state that is closer to racial parity in TANF usage than the country as a whole is. He wasn't trying to pull any punches--in fact, he probably just randomly selected a state that where the figures happened to be round and easily comprehended.

With the exception of Hawaii (where many blacks are in the military and are consequently relatively intelligent and prosperous), blacks receive a disproportionately large share of TANF benefits in every state in the country.

The upper Midwest is the nation's most racially unbalanced region, with blacks using welfare at rates far higher than non-blacks. The South, in contrast, is its most balanced. It is often argued that as a place becomes less white, white support for welfare programs that come to increasingly transfer white wealth not from affluent whites to poor whites but from affluent and middle class whites to non-whites will decrease. This by no means debunks that argument, but it is worth noting that the rankings don't shake out the way such an argument might predict, with whites in states where blacks receive especially disproportionate amounts of welfare benefits voting more strongly Republican than they do in states where welfare benefits are more equally distributed. There is no correlation between the two.

And TANF utilization relative to population share for Hispanics:

1) Massachusetts
2) Connecticut
3) Pennsylvania
4) Minnesota
5) New York
6) Nebraska
7) New Hampshire
8) Rhode Island
9) Arizona
10) Utah
11) Idaho
12) Wyoming
13) Washington
14) New Jersey
15) New Mexico
16) Texas
17) North Dakota
18) Wisconsin
19) California
20) Iowa
21) Indiana
22) Montana
23) Colorado
24) Oregon
25) Vermont
26) Kansas
27) Missouri
28) Ohio
29) Michigan
30) Nevada
31) Oklahoma
32) Delaware
33) Alaska
34) Maine
35) Hawaii
36) Florida
37) North Carolina
38) Virginia
39) Illinois
40) Arkansas
41) Tennessee
42) West Virginia
43) Louisiana
44) Kentucky
45) South Dakota
46) Alabama
47) Georgia
48) Mississippi
49) South Carolina
50) Maryland

A visualization of the Hispanic data is available here.

Not surprisingly, Hispanics in states with small black populations appear to be especially heavily welfare users. That's because in these states, their TANF utilization is being compared mostly to white TANF utilization rates, whereas in the South, Hispanics are being compared to a black-white mix, and consequently look less disproportionate (and actually quite admirable in many places). Looking at the preceding table, it's not surprising why Arizona has a restrictionist reputation--that Alabama does so as well is less predictable.


Anonymous said...

A couple of thoughts: Wisconsin is at the top of the black-over-representation list because in past years it attracted thousands of Chicago ghetto dwellers due to its higher benefit levels. At least that's the story I've heard. Minnesota probably is in second place because many of its blacks are very poor Somali immigrants.

Being a native of Connecticut and now a New York resident, it absolutely does not surprise me in the least that Massachusetts and Connecticut are at the top of the Hispanic over-representation list and New York not far behind. Hispanics in the Northeast have had faced a lot of tough challenges for decades. One theory is that the Puerto Rican migrants who comprise much of the area's population often didn't bother to put down many roots because it's very easy to go back and forth between the island and the mainland, with ample cheap flights and no immigration issues.


read it said...

"Hispanics in the Northeast have had faced a lot of tough challenges for decades."

Such as...?

Anonymous said...

Hispanics in the Northeast have had faced a lot of tough challenges for decades.

You must be referring to those brutal sanctuary city and sanctuary state laws.

Severn said...

It is often argued that as a place becomes less white, white support for welfare programs that come to increasingly transfer white wealth not from affluent whites to poor whites but from affluent and middle class whites to non-whites will decrease.

Libertarians have been making this argument for generations now. The fact that the welfare state has grown by leaps and bounds at the same time as America is being converted into a non-white country does not give them the slightest pause.

Libertarians are like communists in that their precious theories are much more important to them than reality.

Anonymous said...

" the welfare state has grown by leaps and bounds at the same time as America is being converted into a non-white country"

the welfare state has grown by leaps and bounds BECAUSE America is being converted into a non-white country

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up in Connecticut in the 1970's and 1980's the (mostly Puerto Rican) Hispanic population had it pretty tough. Crime, poverty, bad housing, low educational achievement, all of that. One theory for their woes was what I mentioned earlier, the lack of putting down roots in the area due to easy back-and-forth travel. Another explanation, one which I heard quite a few times, is that it was mainly the lower socioeconomic end of Puerto Rican society that migrated to Connecticut and other Northeastern states. I'm rather skeptical of that one.

Another thing from the charts that surprises me a bit is the comparison between Hispanics in Texas and in California. I'd always thought that Texas had a considerably more prosperous and better-assimilated Hispanic population than the Golden State, with all its impoverished Mexicans in Los Angeles, but that doesn't appear to be the case - granted, the difference is small, and the Hispanic over-representation is not all that significant in either state.


Audacious Epigone said...


The heavy Puerto Rican presence in the Northeast was my instinctive suggestion for relatively poor Hispanic performance there, in part due to Puerto Ricans--and that's about as clear a descriptor as Brazilian--tending to have more African ancestry than people from Mexico and Central America, but I'm not sure how accurate I am on that.

Anonymous said...

Lazy and dumb, dumb and lazy. Too bad we can't shout it from the rooftops.

agnostic said...

A friend from Minnesota told me a story like what Peter said. The worst of Chicago blacks migrated up there when they couldn't get by in Illinois.

That must've gotten a lot worse when the crime rate peaked in the early '90s and lowered the carrying capacity of the criminal population, squeezing the excess into neighboring states.

Son of Brock Landers said...

When do you think the feds will release updated data on state by state use broken out by race? The recession has pushed the black UE rate up (U3 is 16-17%) that these numbers, while great to see, are understating black utilization rate of food stamps. Add in the ever declining legitimacvy rate in that community, and it is a recipe for even higher usage.

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rico has exceptionally high rates of murder, welfare usage, and other dysfunction. It's tempting to say that Puerto Ricans here are worse, but I doubt it. I'd bet the PRs in America are pretty similar to those back in the homeland.

You could even argue that the more ambitious PRs put down roots, while the less ambitious to home to an easy life.

I've never lived around PRs myself, but the general consensus is that they're crime prone and don't work. Not quite as violent or crazy as blacks, and probably a little more family oriented, but not the people you want moving in. Mexicans are quite a bit better.

Juthika Chatterjee said...

Hispanics after facing a lots of ups and downs has come out prominently in the Northeast.

Anonymous said...

"Another thing from the charts that surprises me a bit is the comparison between Hispanics in Texas and in California. I'd always thought that Texas had a considerably more prosperous and better-assimilated Hispanic population than the Golden State,"

States have different cutoffs for when a person qualifies for different benefits. Like in NY it is like 150% of the poverty line, but in TX it is like 43% of the poverty line. So, if the poverty line is $40K for a family of four, then in NY, a family qualifies at $60K, but in TX they don't qualify until they get down to like $18K.

Audacious Epigone said...


Great point that I should've discussed in the body of the post. However, these comparisons are still racially relative, so varying ceilings for benefits still effect people of all races in the same state equally.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks. I'd always guessed that Hawaii has about the best blacks in the country and Wisconsin about the worst. Seeing Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa in the top five ratios here reminded me of when I calculated imprisonment ratios for blacks versus whites in 1997, and those three states came out in the top three.

Something else to keep in mind is that Wisconsin's rural whites at least look like they are way ahead of rural whites in a lot of other states. It's a pleasure to drive around the Wisconsin countryside and admire all the beautifully kept up dairy farms. An old socialist from Wisconsin told me that Wisconsin farmers organize strong nonprofit co-ops for marketing their produce, which makes it economically feasible to maintain prosperous family farms. A big share of the profits go to the farmers rather than to the middle men.

There seems to be a relationship between the high levels of cooperation and social trust among whites in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa and the more anti-social blacks they attract.

Steve Sailer said...

A methodological suggestion: I realize you're responding to how Derb used the stats, but there's a bias in these ratios depending on how large a percentage blacks make up of the whole state. For example, if Mississippi is, say, 40% black, then the maximum possible ratio for Mississippi would be 2.50 (100%/40%), while if Idaho is 1% black, then the mathematically maximum possible ratio would be 100.00. (Indeed, the ratio in Mississippi is only 2.22.)

I think it's better to compare blacks to whites than blacks to the entire population, even though there's still the problem of whites differing between states (e.g., CN v. WV).

Audacious Epigone said...

Yes, great point re: the methodological shortcomings. The problem is even greater when attempting a comparison of white TANF utilization rates to the extent that it is almost impossible to do meaningfully.

A way around this might be to calculate utilization rates for whites and compare them to utilization rates for blacks in the same state. So if, in MS, for example, blacks represent 95% of total usage (2.38 in the table), if (for the sake of argument) the 60% of whites then comprise 5% of TANF usage for .08. Dividing the black by the white figures yields 29.8--the higher the number, the heavier black utilization in the state. I'll try that.

Steve Sailer said...

I think the simple way to do it is to just calculate the percentages of blacks and whites on TANF in a state and divide the black percentage by the white percentage. Let's say in a state with liberal eligibility rules, 20% of blacks and 5% of whites are on TANF, then that's a ratio of 4. In a state with conservative eligibility rules, if 12% of blacks and 2% of whites are on TANF, then that's an eligibility rate of 6, from which I'd infer that blacks might tend to be more underclass in the latter state with the higher ratio relative to that state's whites.

Of course, this assumes whites are the same from state to state, which we know isn't true at the extremes (e.g., DC vs WV), but we can at least try to bear in mind our stereotypes about whites in different states (e.g., CN whites are better off than RI whites next door).

rjp said...

agnostic, ironrailsironweight:

Regarding Wisconsin and Iowa, they were the beneficiaries of many of the former residents of the Chicago Housing Authority properties who were moved by the CHA with taxpayer money when the properties were torn down. Needless to say, they received the best of the best.

Not sure if Iowa or Wisconsin "pay" better, but better benefit levels are always going to attract the real leeches who never intend to leave the welfare system.