The concern that generous welfare state institutions may in the long-run undermine social norms which limit the disincentives of social security systems is as old as the welfare state itself. Already in the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt warned of the ‘moral disintegration’ effect of welfare dependency. This study assesses the empirical validity of this concern. Based on the results of four waves of the World Value Surveys the individual and country-specific determinants of benefit morale – defined as the reluctance to claim government benefits without legal entitlement – are analysed. The results support the empirical relevance of these worries: In the long-run an increase of government benefits and unemployment is associated with deteriorating welfare state ethics.