Or at least that is what I am led to believe by articles like Mic’s A Shocking Thing Happened When Tennesee Decided To Drug Test Its Welfare Recipients, which describes said shocking thing as: 1 out of 812 applicants tested positive for drugs. As Think Progress notes, that means that just 0.12% of all people applying for cash assistance in Tennessee have tested positive for drugs, compared to the 8% who have reported using drugs in the past month among the state’s general population.
If you assume the four people who refused were on drugs, it’s still a paltry 0.61%.
If I were a welfare recipient, and they were going to drug test me and not reimburse me if I came out positive, and I was on drugs, I would decline the hell out of that test.
Suppose that the poor in Florida use drugs at the same rate as the poor in various studies and surveys – about 10%.
And if they were found to use only two-thirds, or half as many drugs as the general population, this might indeed be the lesson. Welfare users use only about one percent as many drugs as the general population. The National Coalition For The Homeless notes that about 26% of them use drugs, which is about 2.5x as high as the general population.
I crunched some data I have from the hospital I work at, and it shows that poor people (defined as people who get health insurance through an aid program) have moderately higher rates of drug use related problems than the general population.Only about 2 percent of applicants tested positive, and Florida actually lost money”.TBO: Welfare Drug Testing Yields 2% Positive Results, “Newton said that’s proof the drug-testing program is based on a stereotype, not hard facts.” ATTN: Why Drug Testing Poor People Is A Waste Of Time And Money, “Florida tested welfare recipients for four months before its drug test mandate was thrown out by the courts.Only 2.6 percent of welfare recipients tested positive.The rest of the Florida’s population use drugs at a rate of 8 percent. Apparently welfare recipients were asked to pay for their own drug tests, and would be reimbursed if the results came back negative.In other words, the plan intended to verify right-wing beliefs that welfare recipients are a bunch of drug-addicted slackers looking for a handout has demonstrated exactly the opposite.The article has 11,000 notes on Tumblr right now, I’ve seen it all over my Facebook feed as well, and the same story has been taken up, with the same editorial line, by a host of other news sources.The Republicans were pretty attached to their “drug test welfare recipients” plan and didn’t want to look like they were wimps who backed down just because of one little court case, so they decided to give people the written test in the hopes of having prior suspicion for the people who said yes.Sure, it made no sense, but they could still tell their constituents they were drug testing those welfare recipients, and in principle they’d won an important victory. Which raises another interesting question – how did Florida’s urine-based program do before the courts struck it down? MSNBC: Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Looks Even Worse, “[Florida Governor] Scott’s policy was an embarrassing flop.Reverb Press: Another GOP Fail: 0.2% Of Tennessee Welfare Recipients Found To Use Illegal Drugs. According to legitimate research in this area, poor people use as many drugs as anyone else and probably more.Mommyish: Results Of State Drug Testing Prove Gross Assumptions About Welfare Applicants Are Wrong. These stories all make the point that we have many stereotypes about the poor, and one such stereotype is that the use lots of drugs, but in fact these sorts of welfare programs find them to use fewer drugs than the general population, and therefore we should stop being so prejudiced. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that illegal drug use was slightly higher in families on government assistance (9.6%) than families not on government assistance (6.8%).