NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nearly Half of U.S. Households Receive Government Benefits

October 7, 2011

Families were more dependent on government programs than ever last year, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • Nearly half -- 48.5 percent -- of the population lived in a household that received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2010, according to Census data.
  • Those numbers have risen since the middle of the recession when 44.4 percent lived in households receiving benefits in the third quarter of 2008.

The share of people relying on government benefits has reached a historic high, in large part from the deep recession and meager recovery, but also because of the expansion of government programs over the years.

  • Means-tested programs, designed to help the needy, accounted for the largest share of recipients last year.
  • Some 34.2 percent of Americans lived in a household that received benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicaid (the federal-state health care program for the poor).
  • Another 14.5 percent lived in homes where someone was on Medicare (the health care program for the elderly), and nearly 16 percent lived in households receiving Social Security.

High unemployment and increased reliance on government programs has also shrunk the nation's share of taxpayers.

  • Some 46.4 percent of households will pay no federal income tax this year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
  • That's up from 39.9 percent in 2007, the year the recession began.

Source: Sara Murray, "Nearly Half of U.S. Lives in Household Receiving Government Benefit," Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2011.

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