Does anyone know if there are academics (such as mathematicians) who use welfare checks to free themselves up to just do research? That is, as an alternative to the ivory tower, either due to preference or failure to meet selection criteria. How successful have they been without an official post? I feel like this would be an ideal life.

  • If you have worked with any institutionally unattached academics, that would be interesting too.
    – Wakem
    Jan 12, 2014 at 23:05
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    Would you please clarify? Are you asking about "independent" academics living off social welfare provided by their state or country?
    – Moriarty
    Jan 12, 2014 at 23:16
  • Done. (character count)
    – Wakem
    Jan 12, 2014 at 23:17

1 Answer 1


I am not sure what at all is "ideal" about this plan, to be frank. Social welfare recipients usually receive only enough money to ensure subsistence, if even that much. Moreover, in places like the US, there are major time limits placed on the amount of time someone can be on unemployment "insurance" and receive such funds.

So, even if you do get such money, it would almost certainly not be on an ongoing basis, nor would it be a particularly comfortable life, unless you have sufficient additional resources (other working family members) to supplement welfare payments.

Moreover, being unaffiliated with any institution means that you don't have access to the resources of such institutions (journal access, computer and laboratory access, and so on). Obtaining these resources without institutional affiliations can be very expensive, and could completely negate the benefits of being "free of the ivory tower."

  • No pressure on what to work on, no teaching, etc. Free from too many material objects. I was thinking of something like Paul Erdos's lifestyle, though somewhat different.
    – Wakem
    Jan 13, 2014 at 0:05
  • I'm not sure how he got journal access. Maybe his life only worked due to his demonstrated genius, idk.
    – Wakem
    Jan 13, 2014 at 0:08
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    Paul Erdos got journal access from being a visitor at universities that had subscriptions to the journals. He life was better described as "itinerant mathematician" that is he was usually visiting somewhere and not just sitting in an apartment somewhere. Jan 13, 2014 at 1:01
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    @anon there are places in academia that give complete freedom, no teaching duties, no need for getting grants, and so on. Of course you would have to be good enough to get the position.
    – Bitwise
    Jan 13, 2014 at 1:46
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    @anon it really depends on what field you are in. In mathematics arXiv will get you most but not all of contemporary research. I can't vouch for other fields. ArXiv itself only pretends to cover, math, physics, some chem, some bio, some CS, some finance. If you are in the wrong field then it won't help much. Feb 25, 2014 at 19:08

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