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Do welfare magnets attract?

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Abstract

Some scholars and many policymakers claim that poor people, in order to improve their lot, move to states that offer high welfare benefits. The authors test the validity of this claim using data from six Current Population Surveys: 1982-1984 and 1986-1988. They find no evidence to support the so-called welfare magnet hypothesis. Poor people do not move from one state to another to receive more public assistance. In fact, the poor hardly move from their home state at all. True, low-income persons who move to states with generous welfare benefits are more likely to go on welfare than are poor people who move to low benefit states, but their numbers are too small to affect a state's welfare expenditures. The authors also find that low-income people who already live in high benefit states are no more likely than the poor who live in low benefit states to participate in welfare programs.

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