Welfare and Ghettoization

My latest post for 3quarksdaily, which concerns itself with about the analogy between Muslim immigrants to Western countries and earlier waves of immigrants to the US, has gotten me thinking about the role of welfare in promoting ghettoization. When writing about Jewish-Americans, I said,

Jews had few structural barriers to integration; American cultural policy has always been neutral, neither suppressing minority-religion civil society institutions the way France does or shoving them down people’s throats the way Israel does. Anti-Semitism ran rampant in the United States up until 1945, when people started feeling guilty about the Holocaust, but there were numerous institutions that Jews could turn to beside the synagogue [e.g. City College].

In Israel, one of the factors promoting the cultural ghettoization of ultra-Orthodox Jews is that their political parties have made sure that families with many children can live on welfare indefinitely. They’ll still be poor, but they can live on child credit without ever having to look for work (Israeli child credit isn’t even means-tested). In fact, Israeli secularists often point out to the fact that in the US ultra-Orthodox Jews have to find work to explain their relative integration into mainstream society.

So it’s entirely possible that my minimum income proposal will only prop up immigrant ghettos unless it requires people to show proof that they look for work. On the other hand, Britain’s Pakistanis and Bangaldeshis are unemployed at three times the general population’s rate and out of the workforce at half again its rate, even though it’s no longer possible to live on the dole in Britain without showing proof of looking for work.

Ultimately, the hypothesis that unrestricted welfare causes ghettoization is easily testable, given a few years. In 2005, Germany implemented the Hartz IV reform, which requires welfare recipients to accept any job the state finds for them no matter what; the rules are so rigid that the Daily Telegraph started an urban legend that women were forced to work as prostitutes or lose their benefits. If restrictions on welfare dragoon ghettoized minorities to go out and find work, we’ll see the ratio of Turkish-German to German unemployment decline considerably in the next few years.

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