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Nearly Half of Americans Receive Government Funding

Thursday January 19th, 2012   •   Posted by David Theroux at 10:59pm PST   •  

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Sara Murray reports that “Nearly Half of U.S Lives in Household Receiving Government Benefits.”

The pool of Americans relying on government benefits rose to record highs last year as an increasing share of families tapped aid in a weak economy.

Some 48.6% of the population lived in a household receiving some type of government benefit in the second quarter of 2010, up a notch from 48.5% in the first quarter, according to Census data.

Expanding government programs combined with the worst downturn since the Great Depression have led to an explosion in the share of Americans relying on outside help. To combat prolonged economic weakness, Congress extended unemployment benefits to a record 99 weeks (up from the normal 26-weeks offered in most states). The food stamp program was tweaked so it was more generous. Americans flocked to Social Security disability, a last bastion of support for some of the long-term unemployed. . . .

That number is up from 32.8% a year ago (when a total of 46.8% of the population lived in a home receiving benefits). The biggest increases came from an uptick in those turning to food stamps and Medicaid.

Nearly 15% of Americans lived in a household receiving food stamps in mid-2010; Almost 26% had access to Medicaid.

Only a small share of the population accessed cash welfare benefits as the 1990s overhaul made it more onerous in many cases to receive and maintain those payments. Some 1.9% of the population lived in a household that received welfare in the second quarter of 2010.

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January 2012