California and Texas are virtual twins. The two states that are home to one-in-five Americans are similar demographically and endowed with abundant natural resources. They differ most in their public policies.
California taxes about 42 percent more than does Texas while also having more generous welfare benefits.
But, according to a new, more comprehensive U.S. Census poverty measure which considers more factors than the old reckoning of poverty, California has proportionately 45 percent more people living in poverty than does Texas.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released the 2013 caseload data for America’s mainstay federal welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, along with enrollment numbers for separate state welfare programs. TANF’s stated purpose is to “help needy families achieve self-sufficiency” by “Reduc(ing) the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage” The U.S. Department of Agriculture also released information on its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — formerly known as food stamps — earlier this month.
Considering this updated information along with the strength of job growth presents an interesting picture.
First, to set the economic context, the “Great Recession” started in December 2007 and lasted until June 2009.
From September 2007, the end of the federal fiscal year, to September 2013, America saw a 1 percent decline in nonfarm employment for a net loss of 1.4 million jobs. In the same period, California lost 3 percent of its workforce for a total of 509,000 jobs. But, while the U.S. and California are still in the hole on job growth, Texas experienced a 7 percent increase in its nonfarm employment rolls for a total of 779,000 jobs, more than half the U.S. net jobs gain over six years.
Enrollment in the two the most common welfare programs during this same six year period tell an interesting story too. While the U.S. job base contracted 1 percent, its overall TANF rolls were virtually static, declining by 4,680 people. California and Texas diverged significantly, however, with California’s TANF and state welfare program rolls swelling 18 percent for a total of 203,318 people. Texas’ welfare rolls shrank by 36 percent or 50,996 people during the same period.
More revealing is the fact that, in 2007, before the onset of the recession, California’s 1.2 million recipients of traditional welfare comprised about 28 percent of the nation’s total welfare caseload in a state with 12 percent of the nation’s population. In 2013, California had a full third of America’s welfare cases, 33 percent.
SNAP use is an entirely different matter. In six years, the number of people in the U.S. enrolled in SNAP skyrocketed 80 percent or 21,167,521 people. By comparison SNAP use in California spiked 103 percent for a total of 2,110,846 people. In Texas, the number of SNAP enrollees was up 67 percent for a total of 1,619,693, considerably below this program’s national rate of increase.