A Reason writer returns to Appalachia to ask: Why don’t people who live in places with no opportunity just leave?
In a Fall 2014 National Affairs article called “Moving to Work,” R Street Institute analysts Eli Lehrer and Lori Sanders asked, “What is keeping the poor from moving their families to new places to take advantage of better opportunities?” They argue that “the answer lies primarily in the structure of poverty-relief programs.” In other words, the government is paying people to be poor.
Many of the 80 or so means-tested federal welfare programs that provide food aid, housing assistance, medical assistance, child care assistance, and other services for low-income individuals and families are administered by state agencies that each have differing requirements and standards. “For an individual or family faced with the stressful prospect of uprooting a household and leaving behind established community support systems, even a temporary loss of welfare benefits can be daunting,” they argue. They conclude that “America’s decentralized welfare state, in short, presents a major barrier to mobility itself.”