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Memo to Mitt: Mormons make up that 47% on assistance, too

Published September 25, 2012 3:25 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There are many Mormons among the 47 percent Mitt Romney said take advantage of government assistance. But, they say, they are not irresponsible or lazy.

Indeed, Brigham Young University graduate students who marry young and start their families before they have much of an income believe they are following their faith's advice to "bear children." So they turn to government-funded poverty programs such as Medicaid.

"As the wife of a BYU graduate student, I know that using Medicaid to finance childbirth is a common decision among our student peers," Catherine Jeppsen writes at Religion Dispatches. "LDS student families also take advantage of low-income housing, WIC vouchers, and other assistance. Restrictions on student employment, caps on student loans, and the high costs of insurance premiums and maternity deductibles don't leave many other choices."

Jeppsen quotes Salt Lake Tribune statistics that "44 percent of births to parents who listed 'student' as their occupation" in Utah in 2008 were funded by Medicaid." Of those, about 39 percent occurred in Utah County, she writes, where some 80 percent of the population is LDS.

"We've experienced employers that are not friendly to families, part-time jobs without benefits, student-loan debt, and high medical costs and insurance deductibles," Jeppsen writes. "We used WIC to obtain PediaSure when our daughter refused food."

Jeppsen and her husband have "made compromises, lived frugally, and accepted help from family as we support one child on part-time salaries."

Apparently, volunteer or church-run programs are not adequate for these Mormon faithful. And what about all the students of other faiths and no faith?

Peggy Fletcher Stack