People are more likely to support anti-poverty programs if they conceive of the poor as “like them,” especially when it comes to race. On a state-by-state basis, places with the most homogeneous populations tend to be the most generous. Oregon, for example, one of the whitest states in the union, has an extensive safety net, as I’ve written about before. Today, Oregon, where 84 percent of the population is white and 1.8 percent of the population is black, gives a single-parent family of three $506 a month through Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), the modern-day welfare program. Mississippi, which is 60 percent white and 38 percent black, gives a single-parent family of three just $170 a month. Oregon also helps people get off welfare by linking them to employment and pays their wages for up to six months. Mississippi has a work requirement for people receiving welfare, but does little to help them get a job.

I think what you see in other states is you see this kind of partisan, ‘we are going to take it out on poor people,’ philosophy. You just haven't seen that here,” Tina Kotek, a Democratic legislator in Oregon, told me last year.

That states have so much leeway in how they administer benefits is one of the legacies of a massive overhaul of welfare programs in 1996. In those reforms, spearheaded by then-president Bill Clinton, the government changed cash assistance to a program called TANF, which was administered through what are known as “block grants” to states. States could decide what they did with TANF funds, and could set their own limits for how much cash families could receive and who could receive it. A new Urban Institute analysis finds that allowing states to decide how to spend TANF dollars has led to even more racial discrepancies in who receives benefits. The Urban Institute analyzed a federal database that tracks state policy decisions about TANF and found that the states whose populations are more heavily African American are now less generous, more restrictive, and provide TANF for a shorter period of time than whiter states.

Read the source article at The Atlantic