U.S. Welfare Statistics

Few things seem more misunderstood and misconceived in the U.S. than the welfare system, by which I mean public aid programs that include Medicaid, food stamps, special payments for pregnant women and young mothers, and federal and state housing benefits (even the term is used loosely enough to merit debates about semantics, with some using welfare to refer solely to one or some of these programs, and others going so far as to include public education and other goods to be a form of welfare — right now I am concerning myself with my aforementioned definition).

So with all that in mind, I figured that I would share some detailed and objective statistics regarding the welfare system: how many Americans are on it and for how long, the demographics of said recipients, the cost of the program, and so on. Sources include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the CATO Institute (a prominent libertarian think-tank).

In essence I have copy and pasted the data from Statistic Braina well-regarded and extensive source for those who love raw data; the original page can be found here.  Note that this report was updated July 8th of this year, so this is as relevant as it gets. As you look through the details, take into account the various myths regarding the sheer cost of the country’s welfare system, how many people are on it, the predominant racial demographic of recipients, and so on.

Welfare Statistics
Total number of Americans on welfare 12.8 million
Total number of Americans on food stamps 46.7 million
Total number of Americans on unemployment insurance 5.6 million
Percent of the US population on welfare 4.1 %
Total government spending on welfare annually (not including food stamps or unemployment) $131.9 billion
Welfare Demographics
Percent of recipients who are white 38.8 %
Percent of recipients who are black 39.8 %
Percent of recipients who are Hispanic 15.7 %
Percent of recipients who are Asian 2.4 %
Percent of recipients who are Other 3.3 %
Welfare Statistics
Total amount of money you can make monthly and still receive Welfare $1000
U.S. States where Welfare pays more than an $8 per hour job 39
U.S. States where Welfare pays more than a $12 per hour job 6
U.S. States where Welfare pays more than the average salary of a U.S. Teacher 8
Average Time on AFCD (Aid to Families with Dependent Children)
Time on AFDC Percent of Recipients
Less than 7 months 19%
7 to 12 months 15.2%
1 to 2 years 19.3%
2 to 5 years 26.9%
Over 5 years 19.6%
Top 10 Hourly Wage Equivalent Welfare States in U.S.
State Hourly Wage Equivalent
Hawaii $17.50
Alaska $15.48
Massachusetts $14.66
Connecticut $14.23
Washington, D.C. $13.99
New York $13.13
New Jersey $12.55
Rhode Island $12.55
California $11.59
Virginia $11.11
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