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Welfare culture refers to the behavioral consequences of providing poverty relief (i.e., welfare) to low-income individuals. Welfare is considered a type of social protection, which may come in the form of remittances, such as 'welfare checks', or subsidized services, such as free/reduced healthcare, affordable housing, and more. Pierson (2006) has acknowledged that, like poverty, welfare creates behavioral ramifications, and that studies differ regarding whether welfare empowers individuals or breeds dependence on government aid. Pierson also acknowledges that the evidence of the behavioral effects of welfare varies across countries (such as Norway, France, Denmark, and Germany to name a few), because different countries implement different systems of welfare.
In the United States, the debate over the impact of welfare traces back as far as the New Deal, but it later became a more mainstream political controversy with the birth of modern welfare under President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. The term "welfare culture," however, was not coined until 1986, by Lawrence Mead.
Welfare may be used to refer to any government-based aid used to promote the well-being of its citizens. In recent decades, however, welfare has been restricted to refer to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF), which provides monthly stipends for indigent families that meet a specific array of criteria.
The term "welfare culture" uses the more broad interpretation of welfare, all government social programs. However, scholars like David Ellwood and Lawrence Summers (1985) believe that the debate over welfare culture could be more accurate if each specific welfare program were examined individually. Specific programs include Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and disability benefits.
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