Conservatives generally believe that government largess has created a morally defective welfare subculture. Some argue that excessive welfare payments contribute to high homicide rates by undermining individual responsibility and attachment to traditional social institutions. Liberals, on the other hand, suggest that higher welfare benefits may reduce homicide rates by alleviating the strains of poverty and promoting educational achievement. Drawing on a review of literature and aggregate welfare data, this study examined the relationship between local AFDC benefit levels and homicide rates. Variables were derived from Department of Health and Human Services, 1990 Census, and FBI data describing social/economic areas (N=394). Controlling for several economic and demographic variables, higher AFDC payments were associated with lower homicide rates. In addition, AFDC benefit level had an indirect negative effect on the homicide rate via its negative association with the high school dropout rate. Overall, these findings support the welfare-as-an-investment-in-youth and integrated strain-disorganization perspectives.

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