Navigating the Welfare Landscape: Assessing the Impact on Poverty Reduction and the Evolving Role of Social Security

When faced with the question of whether various welfare programs have worked to reduce poverty, the general answer is yes. However, as noted by a report by the CATO Institute, these programs mainly helped socioeconomically stable groups more so than other groups facing other social problems (Tanner & Hughes, 2014). In reality, there are a wide variety of different programs that come together and work under the social welfare umbrella. Such programs include non-profits, governmental agencies, and volunteer groups. Although each has impacted poverty in its own way, it is only through working together that progress has been made towards moving the poverty line (Hansan, 2017).

The road toward improving poverty has been progressive and has changed over the decades, just as the intended end goal of welfare has changed as well. As noted by Hansan, welfare is defined as “help provided to a person in need; activities and resources to enhance or promote the well-being of individuals, families, and the larger society…” (Hansan, 2017). Essentially, welfare is providing help to members with the goal of increasing their quality of life and with the eventual goal of becoming self-sufficient. A perfect example of this is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is a federal program that provides funds for low- and no-income people to purchase food and maintain adequate nutrition (Texas Health and Human Services, 2023). This program aims to assist families with purchasing food until they reach a point where they can buy the food without help. This principle can be viewed as ethical because the intention is to keep individuals healthy by providing funding in order to supplement their diet with the required nutrition.

According to the United States Census, the national poverty rate was 11.5 percent, which equated to 37.9 million people living in poverty in 2022 (US Census, 2024). Both the number of people in poverty and the poverty rate have been lowering since 2008; however, as noted in Figure 1, the number of people in poverty has been steadily increasing since 1970 (US Census, 2024). Although the poverty rate is trending downwards, population increases can explain the rise in number of people living in poverty.

Social security is the top program that needs attention when examining the various welfare programs. Although the program was started with good intentions, it was never intended to be the sole means of financial support after retirement. As mentioned in the 2023 annual report by the Social Security Board of Trustees, the trust fund, out of which Social Security is paid, is on track to be depleted by 2034 (OASDI, 2023). This does not mean that social security will stop being sent out. Instead, it will be limited to only the funds that are drawn in from paying citizens each year. Some changes that could be made to preserve this program include pulling funding from other programs, reducing the amount of Social Security funding paid out, and or increasing the percentage current members pay towards Social Security.

Hansan, J.E. (2017). What is social welfare history? Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/recollections/social-welfare-history/

SNAP Food Benefits | Texas Health and Human Services. (2023).

https://www.hhs.texas.gov/services/food/snap-food-benefits

The 2023 OASDI Trustees report. (2023). https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TR/2023/

Tanner, M., & Hughes, C. (2014, October 20). War on Poverty Turns 50: Are We Winning Yet? CATO Institute. https://www.cato.org/policy-analysis/war-poverty-turns-50-are-we-winning-yet#

US Census Bureau. (2024, January 4). National Poverty in America Awareness Month: January 2024. Census.gov. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/stories/poverty-awareness-month.html

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