A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds that 55% of Americans have received government benefits from at least one of the six most well-known federal entitlement programs. Those would be Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, unemployment benefits, and/or food stamps.
About a third of all adults have received multiple benefits, with 15% using three or more programs. Sixteen percent said that while they themselves have not received help, a member of their household had, meaning that 71% of adults live in a household that has benefited from at least one program.
If you add veteran benefits and federal college loans/grants to the picture, 70% of individual Americans have received entitlements and the household share with at least one recipient grows to 86%.
Looking at demographic subgroups, women are more likely than men to have received an entitlement benefit (61% vs 49%). The old almost universally receive benefits (97% among those 65+) while only 33% of those between 18 and 29 have used one of these programs. Sixty-four percent of black Americans received benefits compared to 56% of whites and 50% of Hispanics.
Americans are about equally likely to use a program regardless of partisanship, with 60% of Democrats, 52% of Republicans, and 53% of Independents saying they have used one. Meanwhile, 57% of conservatives, 53% of moderates, and 53% of liberals are on the dole.
While program use is spread about evenly throughout the nation’s geographic regions, it is markedly higher in rural communities (62%) than in the cities or suburbs (53% and 54%, respectively).
When you combine these facts with the fantastic work done by AEI scholar Nick Eberstadt in his new book, A Nation of Takers, it becomes clear that America is facing an entitlement explosion that is simply unsustainable. When only 45% of the country is paying for benefits for the other 55%, it’s no surprise that our government is running annual trillion-dollar deficits. Even if (when?) the economy fully recovers, these ratios just can’t be maintained, especially if the trend of the last few decades towards increasing dependency continues.