Nicholas Kristof has a very interesting column in the New York Times about what he discovered during a recent visit to Kentucky.
This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.
. . .
Antipoverty programs ... discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.
Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.
“One of the ways you get on this program is having problems in school,” notes Richard V. Burkhauser, a Cornell University economist who co-wrote a book last year about these disability programs. “If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It’s a terrible incentive.”
There's more at the link. Recommended (albeit sickening) reading.
It's interesting to read that article, then correlate its findings with an interactive map of who's drawing what government benefits across the country (also published by the New York Times, back in February). I highly recommend that you use that map to check on how well - or poorly - your own part of the country is doing in the 'welfare stakes'. Given the risk of social upheaval if (more likely when) the entitlement programs grind to a halt (whether for economic reasons or as the result of other pressures), you'll be able to assess your own risk factors more readily.
(EDITED TO ADD: If you think this growth in welfare/entitlement programs sounds like the deliberate implementation of the economically-illiterate Cloward-Piven strategy, I won't argue with you . . . )