62 Gut Wrenching Welfare Statistics

There has been a recent push in some states to drug test those who are receiving welfare benefits. Receiving public assistance has often been the target of negative social stigmas and to some, the idea of providing a welfare program is controversial. Some believe the government should provide a safety net for individuals and families, while others believe that role should be shifted to non-profit organizations, NGOs, and the private sector.

These welfare statistics show that many of the ideas that the average person has regarding public assistance are not entirely accurate.

Shocking Welfare Statistics

1. Between the states and the Federal government, $152.8 billion is spent annually on food stamps, health insurance, and cash assistance programs. More than half of this cost is sent to working families who are having trouble making ends meet. (UC-Berkeley)

2. Workers in many occupations are dependent on public assistance to supplement their income, including home care workers, child care workers, and fast food workers. (UC-Berkeley)

3. More than 20% of the US population receives some sort of public assistance. More than 52 million people received means-tested public assistance on a monthly basis. (DHHS)

4. About 15% of US individuals and families receive Medicaid and another 13% are receiving food stamps. (DHHS)

5. Just 1% of the US population is receiving cash benefits through the General Assistance Fund or TANF. (DHHS)

6. In 2011, just 5.2% of the total US population was receiving more than 50% of their total income from public assistance, including cash benefits, SSI, or food stamps. (DHHS)

7. The average monthly benefit for everyone receiving welfare benefits in the United States is about $404, including food stamps, TANF, SSI, and General Assistance funds. Those who qualify for SSI receive the most: an average of $698 per month. About 8.3 million Americans receive SSI. (DHHS)

8. Children are the largest recipients of welfare benefits in the United States. About 39% of children received public assistance in some form over the past 30 days, compared to about 17% of adults between the ages of 18-64 or 12.6% of adults over the age of 65. (DHHS)

9. Children also receive a higher amount of monthly support compared to adults when it comes to welfare benefits. Children receive an average of $447 per month in public assistance, compared to $393 per month for adults in the 18-64 age demographic.

10. About 1 in 3 people who are receiving welfare benefits have been receiving public assistance for 12 months or less. 43% of people have been receiving welfare benefits for 3-4 years. (DHHS)

11. Nearly half of those who are receiving a housing benefit have been receiving them for 36 months or longer. In comparison, just 10% of people receiving a cash benefit have been given that public assistance for 36 months or longer. (DHHS)

12. The type of household which is the most likely to receive welfare benefits are those led by single parents. 58% of families led by an unmarried mother and 37% led by an unmarried father received at least one month of welfare benefits in 2012. In comparison, just 1 in 5 households led by a married couple received benefits. (DHHS)

13. Single fathers receive more in benefits per month in public assistance than single mothers. Single fathers were given an average of $447 per month, compared to single mothers receiving an average of $337 per month. (DHHS)

14. 58% of families led by single mothers were receiving welfare benefits for 3 years or more, compared to 35.2% of families led by single fathers. (DHHS)

15. Attending college significantly reduces the likelihood of needing welfare benefits. Just 1 in 10 college graduates received public assistance for at least one month. (DHHS)

16. Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to have received food stamps at some point their lives. 22% of Democrats, compared to 10% of Republicans, say that they have received food stamps. (Pew Research)

17. Over the course of a lifetime, about 17% Americans have participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at least once. 26% of Americans live in a household with either a current or a former food stamp recipient. (Pew Research)

18. 17% of political independents say that they have received public assistance in the form of food stamps in the past. (Pew Research)

19. 23% of women, compared to 12% of men, have received food stamps at some point in their lives. (Pew Research)

20. African-Americans/Blacks are about twice as likely as Caucasians/Whites to have used a food stamp benefit in their lives, 31% vs 15%. (Pew Research)

21. About 22% of Hispanics have reported that they have collected food stamps at least once in their lives. (Pew Research)

22. In the United States, you can earn up to $1,000 per month and still receive some form of welfare benefit. There are currently 39 US states where the welfare benefits pay more than an $8 per hour full-time job. (Statistic Brain)

23. In 8 US states, welfare benefits can pay more than the average salary of a US teacher. (Statistic Brain)

24. 19% of those who receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children have been receiving public assistance for fewer than 7 months. 19.6% of those receiving these welfare benefits have been in the program for over 5 years. (Statistic Brain)

25. About 20% of welfare recipients report the recent use of some illicit drug at least once in the past year. Only a small minority of those people satisfy the internationally accepted diagnostic criteria of having a dependency. (SAPRP)

26. Illicit drug use and dependence are more common among women receiving welfare benefits than among women who do not. Even after controlling for education, race, region, and other factors, welfare benefits are a risk factor for drug use. (SAPRP)

27. The prevalence of illicit drug use for welfare recipients has declined since 1990, though welfare recipients are more likely than non-recipients to use drugs. (SAPRP)

28. The most common barriers to work amongst women who were abusing substances and accepting TANF were low work experience, low education levels, low job skills, and a lack of transportation. (SAPRP)

29. About half of the women who receive welfare benefits are suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder. (SAPRP)

30. Mothers receiving welfare benefits have a 38% chance of being currently involved with child protective services and an 84% chance of being involved with them at some point. (SAPRP)

31. Drug use is 50% more common in households with welfare recipients than in non-welfare households. (NCBI)

32. As of 2015, the national drug use rate in the general population was 9.4%. After 7 states spent more than $1 million drug testing adults who accepted TANF benefits, the highest rate of positive drug tests was 8.3%. Six of the states encountered a positive drug test rate of less than 1%. (Think Progress)

33. In the State of Missouri, there were 38,970 welfare applicants that were tested and screened for illicit drugs. 48 tested positive in 2014. (Think Progress).

34. In Oklahoma, 3,342 welfare applicants were drug tested at an estimated cost of $385,000 from 2012-2014. There were 297 positive drug tests. (Think Progress)

35. Mississippi passed a law in 2014 that required all TANF applicants to complete a written questionnaire about drug use. Mandated testing was required for anyone that showed the possibility of a substance use disorder. In the first 5 months of the program, 3,656 applicants were screened. Only 2 had a positive drug test. (Think Progress)

36. In the United States, there are an estimated 46.2 million people who are currently living below the established poverty line. The poverty line is so low, however, that a family of 3 which has an income of over $1,500 per month does not qualify for most forms of public assistance. (Urban Institute)

37. In the State of Texas, fewer than 10% of qualifying low-income families receive some form of assistance. In comparison, about 75% of qualifying low-income families in the State of California receive public assistance. (Urban Institute)

38. Cash assistance reaches fewer than 1 in 3 poor families in the United States, which means about 1.5% of the total population receives this benefit. (Urban Institute)

39. From 2010 data, less than 30% of TANF funds nationally was spent on cash payments to families in need. Less than 8% goes to activities that can help people find work, including education, training, transportation, and subsidies. (Urban Institute)

40. 63% of TANF funds are spent on social service programs, child care, preventing single-parent pregnancies, and maintaining two-parent families. (Urban Institute)

41. The amount of money that the federal government gives to states through TANF block grants has not changed since 1997. About $16.5 billion each year is spent on TANF and does not change with inflation, which means it is actually worth less today than it was 20+ years ago. (Urban Institute)

42. When unemployment rates doubled in the United States during the Great Recession years of 2007-2009, the number of families receiving assistance in the form of cash only grew by 13%. (Urban Institute)

43. Child poverty in the United States has risen from 16% in 2000 to 22% in 2011. (Urban Institute)

44. Almost half of TANF cases include only children, with no financial support for the adults. 40% of these children live with relatives other than their parents. (Urban Institute)

45. Of the people enrolled in Medicaid, 35.6% participated between 1-12 months and 35.3% participated between 37-48 months. (US Census Bureau)

46. At over 40%, African-Americans/Blacks are more likely to be participating in a government assistance program than any other demographic. This is followed by Hispanics at 36%, Asian/Pacific Islanders at 17.8%, and Caucasian/Whites at 13.2%. (US Census Bureau)

47. 37.3% of those who do not graduate from high school received some form of means-tested public assistance benefit in the past 12 months. (US Census Bureau)

48. 1 in 5 high school graduates and 9.6% of individuals with at least 1 year of college also received benefits from one major means-tested government assistance program in the past 12 months. (US Census Bureau)

49. In the average month, 33.5% of those who are unemployed will receive means-tested benefits. This is compared to 25.3% who are not in the labor force at all, 17.6% of part-time workers, and 6.7% of full-time workers according to 2012 data. (US Census Bureau)

50. Under current SNAP benefits, the current monthly benefit per meal for the food stamps being received is just $1.50. (DHHS)

51. In order for single parents to receive TANF, they must be working at least 30 hours per week. In two-parent families, there must be a combined 35-50 hours of work per week in order to qualify for benefits. (DHHS)

52. When households with children are combined with households with elderly persons and those with developmental disabilities, 82% of all food stamp public assistance monies is directed toward these individuals. (DHHS)

53. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for any public assistance benefits except for emergency Medicaid in the instance of being severely sick or injured. This is despite the fact that up to 75% of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes on a regular basis. (SSA)

54. In 2013, food stamps helped to lessen the burdens of poverty for 4.8 million people. The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit allowed 8 million families to not fall below the poverty line. And if Social Security didn’t exist, there would be 27 million more people who would be living in poverty in the United States right now. (CHN)

55. Over 40% of SNAP recipients are Caucasian/White, while 25.7% are African-American/Black, 10.3% are Hispanic, 2.1% are Asian, and 1.2% are Native American. (USDA)

56. In 2013, 31% of SNAP recipients works in 2013, earning countable income. 23.6% had income from Social Security. Another 19.9% received SSI, while 6.5% received TANF. 3.1% received General Assistance funds. (USDA)

57. 21.5% of SNAP recipients had zero gross income for the year in 2013. (USDA)

58. For families receiving public assistance, food, housing, and transportation accounted for 77% of the total family budget, compared to 65% for families that did not receive any form of welfare benefit. (BLS)

59. For one-parent families receiving public assistance, 36.8% of them did not own a car, compared to 3% of one-parent families who do not receive public assistance and the 9.7% of two-parent families receiving assistance. (BLS)

60. The average family size that receives welfare benefits in the United States is 3.1 people for one-parent households and 4.4 people for 2-parent households. (BLS)

61. Families not receiving assistance averaged 1.7 earners per household, compared with 0.8 earners per household for one-parent families receiving assistance and 1.4 earners for two-parent households. (BLS)

62. In families with children under 18, 11.2% had a reference person with less than a high school education. (BLS)

These welfare statistics show that many of the things that are believed to be true about public assistance are really myths. When people need help, they are generally working hard, and sometimes in a full-time job. Most come from a racial minority, are in a single-parent household, and are looking to find a way to get off of public assistance.

Only a small fraction of those receiving welfare benefits are attempting to defraud the system or are using their cash benefits to purchase drugs or extravagant meals. So keep these statistics in mind the next time welfare and public assistance becomes a hot political issue in your area.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.