"You Haven't Lived Here Long Enough." (Social Welfare Benefits for Migrants)(originally Published September 1948 in This Journal)

Article excerpt

This editorial on residency laws appeared in September 1948.

The year was 1675. Refugees deluged Boston in the wake of King Philip's War. These needy outsiders found themselves unable to get relief from the local authorities. At once a law was passed empowering the General Court to reimburse towns from the state treasury for relief granted non-residents. Thus sprang into existence a program for assisting non-residents, unique in early public welfare history.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census recently reported that 12 million persons in this country have moved from one state to another within the past seven years. Some of these, of course, have returned to the states whence they originally departed. Many have not.

What happens when economic misfortune befalls a person in the latter group? Too frequently he is denied public assistance, though eligible in every respect, save one--length of residence. Sometimes, if physically able, he treks back to his "home state" where he can qualify. Particularly distressing is the plight of the physically disabled person or the widow with small children who "doesn't know where to turn," when informed "you haven't lived here long enough. …