Most Federally Dependent States – A Complete Rundown


Some US states have a low federal dependency and pay more in federal taxes than the amount they receive in government aid. Other states, however, heavily depend on federal contracts, grants, and different types of assistance. In those cases, federal funding represents a significant share of the state’s income.

Would you like to learn the difference between donor and subsidized states? Scroll down to discover the most federally dependent states in various categories. Learn which states have the most welfare users, where most federal funding goes, and more.

What Does It Mean for a State to Be Federally Dependent?

A federally dependent state receives massive funding from the federal government. There is no single aspect or figure to quantify that. There are, however, several factors that help us establish where states rank on the list below:

  • Federal funding versus income taxes – focuses on the federal taxes paid by state vs received. States that receive much more money than they contribute are taker states that depend on government funding. This includes the amount received in grants, contracts, and assistance programs.
  • Gross domestic product per capita – this aspect represents the state’s purchasing power per person. It is derived by dividing the state’s GDP by its population. The higher the GDP per capita, the more developed the state. Consequently, it depends less on government funds.
  • Total funding and federal funding per resident – how much a state receives tells volumes about its governmental dependency. The amount of federal funding per resident gives a better perspective.
  • Share of benefits recipients – the states that receive the most federal aid depend on federal support the most. One way of establishing their ranking is by their share of benefits recipients. US states with higher percentages of recipients rank higher on the list.
  • Federal contracts, grants, and jobs – states where many employees work for the government are also heavily dependent on the government. Some states further get indirect cash inflow through contracts and grants.

Each factor affects the rankings and represents a different type of federal dependency. So, we will look at each for a full picture of how much and in what way US states depend on government money.

Federal Funding vs. State Income

One way to discover the most federally subsidized states is to compare state income versus total aid. It’s also essential not to overlook the amount of federal aid per resident. In the table below, we have also included two other critical criteria – funding received per dollar paid in taxes and the share of benefits recipients.

Here are some key points from the data included in the table that gives stats on federal aid by state:

  • Virginia receives the highest funding per resident of $10,301.
  • Connecticut doesn’t get anything in federal funding per resident. In fact, the state goes in the negative with -$4,000.
  • California tops the list of states that receive the most federal aid with funding of $43.61 billion.
  • Virginia also gets the least in total funding — $1.77 billion.
  • For each US dollar paid in taxes, residents of New Mexico get 2.34 dollars in federal assistance.
  • Massachusetts receives 0.83 dollars in federal aid for every dollar paid in taxes.
  • New Mexico residents represent 17.40% of benefits recipients.
  • Both North Dakota and Wyoming have the lowest share of benefits recipients or 6.30% each.

These key takeaways show that Connecticut, Wyoming, and Massachusetts are some of the primary US donor states. New Mexico, Virginia, and California meanwhile are among the most federally subsidized states.

State Income vs Federal Funding by State

States That Receive the Most Welfare

In addition to the total amount of federal funding, there are a few other criteria at play too. In this section, we will focus on one of them – the share that federal aid represents of each state’s revenue. 

We will further cover the various types of assistance to determine which states benefit the most from programs like Medicaid and SNAP. The American government is projected to spend approximately $10.3 trillion in 2021 welfare programs. Most funds go to several programs focused on providing healthcare, food, and housing, according to US welfare statistics and facts.

Here are the key figures regarding the states most dependent on welfare and those that do great even without federal funding:

  • Louisiana is the most dependent on federal aid, with government assistance accounting for 36.57% of the state’s revenue. Mississippi follows with a federal aid share of 34.81%.
  • Federal aid represents only 17.03% of the Wisconsin state revenue, placing the jurisdiction in the best position. Virginia comes in second with a share of slightly higher 17.96%.
  • Wyoming and Utah have the lowest number of SNAP recipients per capita or respective 4,399 and 5,995.
  • New Mexico has 21,368 food stamp users per capita. Louisiana and West Virginia come in next with 17,388 recipients per 100k each. So, these two are the American states with most welfare recipients.
  • Wyoming has a total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment of only 54,254 people, while North Dakota comes in second with 90,107 participants.
  • California has 11,686,020 residents enrolled in these programs. That’s significantly higher than the 6,518,631 participants from the runner-up New York.
  • Massachusetts and Minnesota have the highest weekly unemployment benefits of $742 and $682, respectively.
  • Mississippi, Arizona, and Louisiana unemployment benefit recipients can get a maximum of $235, $240, and $247 a week.
  • California gets a total TANF and MOE support of $6.59 billion, followed by New York’s $5.38 billion. These two are the US states that receive the most government assistance in this category.
  • Wyoming and North Dakota receive the least funding in TANF and MOE of $23 million and $43 million, respectively.

California and New York are also the states with the most investigations, according to American welfare fraud stats.

Federal Aid Stats by State

Dependency on Government Business by State

Aside from the federal welfare spending by state, there is another way of dependency common among the most federally subsidized states, namely, the government’s contribution to a state’s business and employment.

Here, we take a look at each state’s gross domestic product. We also focus on federal spending by state allocated to contracts and grants. Finally, we offer data on the percentage of the workforce employed by the government. This is, after all, another way of pouring federal money right into state accounts.

  • California pays the highest federal taxes by state and also has the highest GDP of $3.18 billion. Texas is next with a GDP of $1.91 billion. These two have similar rankings when federal taxes and spending by state are compared.
  • Vermont and Wyoming have the worst GDPs of $35.27 million and $39.79 million, respectively.
  • Texas and Virginia get the most funding in federal contracts of respective $56.1 billion and $55.7 billion.
  • Vermont receives only $286 million in government contracts, while Wyoming gets about $401 million.
  • The leaders in receiving federal grants are California with $106 billion and New York with $83 billion.
  • Wyoming and Vermont get only $1.6 billion and $2.4 billion in government grants, once again at the bottom.
  • Over 10% of Maryland’s workforce is employed by the government, making the jurisdiction one of the most federally dependent states in this regard. Next comes Virginia with 7.9% of its workforce working for the government.
  • Only 1.3% of the workers in both Minnesota and Michigan work for the government.
Dependency on Government Business by State

Which States Pay the Most Federal Taxes?

In 2017, California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois paid the highest amount in federal taxes by state. California paid $234.49 billion, followed by New York with $140.51 billion, and Texas with $133.41 billion. Florida and Illinois contributed $116.97 billion and $67.180 billion.

California is also the state that receives the highest federal funding and has the most Medicaid participants in the US. New York is the second state with the most Medicaid users. Other than that, all the jurisdictions mentioned above have reasonable rankings when comparing states by federal aid funding vs taxes paid.

Do Red States Receive More Welfare?

Red states are more federally dependent states than blue states. Blue states, however, underperformed in other aspects. Below, we’ll analyze the leaders in each category and see whether red or blue states benefit the most. Please note that the categorization is based on the 2016 presidential election results.

Federal Aid by State

  • Wyoming (R), North Dakota (R), and Vermont (B) get the most in total federal funding.
  • Alabama (R), Alaska (R), and Arizona (B) get the most in federal funding per resident.
  • New Mexico (B), West Virginia (R), and Louisiana (R) have the highest share of benefits recipients.

In this category, the reds dominate as the most federally dependent states. Out of the nine states leading in the most funding, most funding per resident, and most benefits users, only two are blue. Democrat states like New York, California, and Illinois are among those that pay the most in federal taxes. So, it would seem that blue states subsidize red states.

Government Assistance Programs by State

  • California (B), Texas (R), and Florida (R) have the highest number of total SNAP participants.
  • Wyoming (R), Utah (R), and New Hampshire (B) have the most food stamps recipients per capita.
  • California (B), New York (B), and Texas (R) have the highest Medicaid and CHIP enrollment.
  • Massachusetts (B), Minnesota (B), Washington (B) have the highest max unemployment benefits.
  • Montana (R), Wyoming (R), and Louisiana (R) have the highest federal aid as a share of state revenue rates.

Republican states are in a worse position again when it comes to states that receive the most welfare. Still, the situation is a bit more balanced, with eight out of 15 states boasting the red color. Democrat states like California and New York lead in the max unemployment benefits. These two are, however, leading tax donor states too. So, they contribute as much as they take.

Government Contracts, Grants, and Jobs

  • Texas (R), Virginia (B), and California (B) get the most money through federal contracts.
  • California (B), New York (B), and Texas (R) receive the most funds through federal grants.
  • Maryland (B), Virginia (B), and New Mexico (B) have the highest share of government jobs.

In this category, blue states seem to get more from the government. Republican states meanwhile lead the way in contracts received, while Democrat states get the highest funding through grants.

The Bottom Line

The United States has a division of donor states vs subsidized states. The first pay the most in federal taxes, while the latter spend more than they contribute. Some of the most federally dependent states include Wyoming, California, and New Mexico. Each of these leads in a different category, like benefits users, SNAP participants, or Medicaid enrollment. Wyoming, however, doesn’t get lots of federal business, unlike Virginia and Texas. Still, this concept goes beyond who gets the most federal funding by state. There are many other factors in play, and that’s why the situation in every state must be individually analyzed.

References: World Population Review, Rockefeller Institute of Government, FAS, World Population Review, World Population Review, World Population Review, US Government Spending, Tax Foundation, Money Rates, Smartadvisor Match, Political Maps, Federal Schedules, USA Spending, MoneyGeek, New York Times

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