Reframing the benefits and beneficiaries of public benefits programs

Mary Keegan Eamon, Chi Fang Wu, Saijun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article uses current research to demonstrate that in addition to the direct benefits received by recipients of four main types of public benefit programs-cash assistance, public health insurance, food assistance, and public housing-non-recipients receive a variety of indirect economic and noneconomic benefits. Non-recipients include individuals, families, organizations, businesses, neighborhoods, and the general public. The review indicates that public benefits programs can indirectly benefit non-recipients economically by increasing economic security; stimulating local, state, and national economies; increasing employment and other measures of economic well-being; generating tax revenues; and providing cost savings. In addition, we determined two main types of indirect noneconomic benefits: enhancing neighborhood quality and the intrinsic rewards gained from fulfilling humanitarian and related values. We then summarize the results of these studies and make suggestions for future research. Finally, based on the reviewed research, we identify methods to reframe negative perceptions of government spending on public benefits programs. By reframing the benefits and beneficiaries of these programs, social workers, professional organizations, lobbyists, politicians, and elected officials can increase societal and political support for public benefits programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Beneficiaries of public benefits
  • Economic benefits
  • Indirect beneficiaries
  • Indirect benefits
  • Noneconomic benefits
  • Public benefits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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