Southern States Participate Most in Social Welfare Programs

A previous Data in the News post focused on the rising participation rate in means-tested assistance programs, and an interactive map on The New York Times website this week displayed the geographic distribution of government benefits.  Welfare programs accounted for 17.6% of personal income in 2009, the highest in history.  In 1929, total entitlements accounted for just 1% of Americans’ incomes, but with the expansion of Social Security, the initiation of Medicare and many other government programs, and the overall growth in entitlement spending, the share of income via welfare programs has risen substantially.  

And while all regions have experienced a greater flow of government benefits to their residents, states in the South and in the western portion of the Sun Belt have seen their dependence on government welfare programs rise the most.  States such as Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arizona, New Mexico and Tennessee possess many counties with a high level of dependence on government benefits; some counties have a level of transfer income per capita of over $10,000.
SSDAN Office

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