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Three pieces on why work requirements won’t work

Summary:
The Trump admin and their allies in Congress are trying to add work requirements to anti-poverty programs. A number of excellent sources explain why this won’t work, where “work” means help poor adults move closer to self-sufficiency. Of course, if the goal is to simply kick people of the rolls, which for some legislators, I’m certain is the case…well, then I guess it could work. First, this efficient WaPo editorial gives you the facts and the numbers behind why this pursuit of work requirements is folly, either in terms of budgetary savings or improving the poor’s living standards. Next, for a deep dive into the issue, this testimony by the Urban Institute’s Heather Hahn is one-stop-shopping for granular evidence, down to the level of caseworkers, as to why work requirements are so

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The Trump admin and their allies in Congress are trying to add work requirements to anti-poverty programs. A number of excellent sources explain why this won’t work, where “work” means help poor adults move closer to self-sufficiency. Of course, if the goal is to simply kick people of the rolls, which for some legislators, I’m certain is the case…well, then I guess it could work.

First, this efficient WaPo editorial gives you the facts and the numbers behind why this pursuit of work requirements is folly, either in terms of budgetary savings or improving the poor’s living standards.

Next, for a deep dive into the issue, this testimony by the Urban Institute’s Heather Hahn is one-stop-shopping for granular evidence, down to the level of caseworkers, as to why work requirements are so ill-advised.

Finally, there’s my piece on this in WaPo this AM, which gets into the fact that we’ve got better evidence than every before (see Hahn’s piece, along with the links to my CBPP colleagues) that, in fact, able-bodied poor people already work. Given the nature of the stressors and labor market barriers they face, their connection to the job market often needs to be strengthened, but work requirements likely will, as Hahn shows, have the opposite effect.

My broader point is: Despite some of the best evidence we’ve ever had showing that neither trickle-down tax cuts nor work requirements will work, conservatives continue trying to solve the problem that the poor have too much and the rich have too little.

Jared Bernstein
Jared Bernstein joined the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May 2011 as a Senior Fellow. From 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, Executive Director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Bernstein was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute, and between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of Deputy Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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