NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Arrival of Monthly Benefits Heralds Deaths

July 8, 1999

Researchers have discovered that government benefit checks to poor minorities are generating accidents, homicides and substance abuse leading to deaths. The evidence lies in the fact that the federal government mails out the checks at the start of every month and deaths from these causes are higher in the first week of each month, compared with the last seven days of the prior month.

The study, conducted by sociologist David P. Phillips, appears in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

  • Deaths from substance abuse jump 14 percent during the first week of each month.
  • Homicides go up 6.2 percent and suicides rise 5.3 percent.
  • Motor vehicle accidents increase 2.8 percent.
  • "Our data does raise the possibility that when you try to help by giving money to an addict, you may feed the habit instead of the person," Phillips says.

He pointed out that care for the poor comes from both the public and private sector, with the latter providing mostly "in-kind" help -- such as food, clothing or shelter. Public-benefits programs rely on cash, which can easily be spent on illegal drugs and alcohol.

Phillips suggested that the federal government should consider acting more like a private charity, to keep addicts from bingeing in the first few days of every month.

The analysis was based on more than 30 million electronic death certificates from 1973 to 1988. Later data was not available since the National Center for Health Statistics began listing only the month of death, not the date, in 1988.

Source: Laura B. Vanderkam, "Study Links Deaths to Timing of Aid Checks," Washington Times, July 8, 1999.


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