NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Percentage of the Population Participates in Government Assistance Programs Each Month?

June 2, 2015

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, approximately 52.5 million (21.3 percent) people in the U.S. participated in major means-tested government assistance programs each month in 2012. Medicaid had the highest participation rates. It's 15.3 percent. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program is the second highest with 13.4 percent.

The average monthly participation rate in major means-tested programs increased from 18.6 percent in 2009 to 20.9 percent in 2011. However, from 2011 to 2012, there was no statistically significant change in the percentage of people who participated.

The largest share of participants (43.0 percent) in any of the public assistance programs stayed in the programs between 37 and 48 months. Additionally, 31.2 percent of people participated between one and 12 months between January 2009 and December 2012.

  • Of people enrolled in Medicaid, 35.6 percent participated between one and 12 months and 35.3 percent participated between 37 and 48 months.
  • At 38.6 percent, the largest share of SNAP recipients participated between 37 and 48 months.
  • Of people enrolled in the Supplemental Security Income program, 35.6 percent participated between on and 12 months, while 38.2 percent participated between 37 and 48 months.
  • At 62.9 percent, the largest share of people participating in TANF participated between one and 12 months.

In an average month, 39.2 percent of children received some type of means-tested benefit. The black participation rate was 41.6 percent, followed by Hispanics at 36.4 percent, Asians or Pacific Islanders at 17.8 percent, and non-Hispanic whites at 13.2 percent. At 50 percent, people in female-householder families had the highest rates of participation in major means-tested programs. 37.3 percent of people who did not graduate from high school received means-tested benefits. In an average month, 33.5 percent of the unemployed received means-tested benefits in 2012.

Source: "21.3 Percent of U.S. Population Participated in Government Assistance Programs Each Month," United States Census Bureau, May 28, 2015.

 

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