NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dependence on Government at All-Time High

February 10, 2012

Published by the Heritage Foundation for the past 10 years, the Index of Dependence on Government tracks the growth in government dependence dating back to the early 1960s.  This year's edition shows an alarming trend, says Patrick Tyrrell, a research coordinator with the Heritage Foundation and coauthor of the Index.


  • One in five Americans relies on the federal government for everything from housing, health care and food stamps to college tuition and retirement assistance --that's more than 67.3 million Americans who receive subsidies from Washington.
  • Government dependency jumped 8.1 percent in the past year, with the most assistance going toward housing, health and welfare, and retirement.
  • The average individual who relies on Washington could receive benefits valued at $32,748, more than the nation's average disposable personal income ($32,446).
  • At the same time, nearly half of the U.S. population (49.5 percent) does not pay any federal income taxes.

As of now, 70 percent of the federal government's budget goes to individual assistance programs, up dramatically in just the past few years.  However, research shows that private, community and charitable aid helps individuals rise from their difficulties with better success than federal government handouts.  Plus, local and private aid is often more effectively distributed.

This much dependence on government has not been seen before in our nation, and it spells grave danger for the republic, says Tyrrell.

Source: Patrick Tyrrell, "Dependence on Government at All-Time High," Heritage Foundation, February 8, 2012.  William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell, "The 2012 Index of Dependence on Government," Heritage Foundation, February 8, 2012.

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