Welfare Statistics + FAQs


How many people are using welfare? How big is the average welfare check? Which state gets the most funds? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and many other must-know welfare statistics and FAQs. About 38 million Americans were part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2019. In 2017, 22% of the general expenditures were spent on public welfare. The US government spends about $668 billion a year on over 120 different welfare programs. These are just some of the welfare facts and statistics that cover this critical sector of the American economy.

Welfare Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • In March 2019, a total of 2,008,197 Americans received TANF.
  • The majority of welfare recipients (80%) are children.
  • In 2018, $31.3 billion was dedicated to providing TANF support.
  • Less than 1% of welfare funds are associated with fraudulent activity.
  • The average SNAP benefits per 2-children family were $393 per month.

General Welfare Statistics

1. 22% of the general expenditures in 2017 went to public welfare.

Close to public welfare come elementary and secondary education that accounted for 21% of the total expenditures for the fiscal year 2017. Higher education and health and hospitals accounted for 10% each, according to welfare stats. Data by Urban suggests that the final share of expenditures with 6% each went to police and corrections, and highways and roads. By contrast, US welfare statistics show that only 4% of the local direct general spending went to public welfare in 2017.


2. 65% of public welfare spending for 2017 was provided by federal intergovernmental grants to local and state governments.

Statistics on welfare show that in the fiscal year 2017, $438 billion of public welfare funds came from federal transfers. This amount makes for about 65% of all the money spent on welfare in the USA that year. Compared to 1977, the federal share of public welfare spending went up by 10%.


3. The state and local government public welfare amount paid per capita in 2017 was $2,070.

Welfare statistics by state reveal that the average amount spent per capita started at $1,068 (Connecticut) and went up to $3,624 (New York). The District of Columbia paid the highest cost of welfare per person at an impressive $5,649. This is also the state with the highest average 401k balance by age. Alaska and Massachusetts were two other states with average public welfare amounts per capita of over $3,000. Their respective average in 2017 was $3,483 and $3,242. At the other end of the spectrum, Georgia and Utah came right after Connecticut with $1,164 and $1,262, respectively.


4. Almost 50% of Americans think the government should increase spending on social security.

Welfare statistics show that nearly half (48%) of Americans support increased spending on social security. Over a half (55%) meanwhile think that the government should spend more on Medicare. There is also strong support (72%) for increased veteran benefits. Respective 46% and 31% supported spending more money for assistance to the needy in the USA and assistance to the unemployed.

(People Press)

5. The US government spends about $100 billion per year on corporate welfare.

A 2012 research by Cato discovered that the USA corporate welfare costs the country about $100 billion a year. Corporate welfare vs social welfare statistics meanwhile show that the government spends more than double on social welfare. Still, $100 billion is a considerable amount of money that could infuse around $800 a year into every American household. These funds could be crucial to dealing with household debt, reducing poverty, and boosting the spending power of Americans.


6. Less than 1% of assistance funds in 2016 were associated with fraud.

The official US welfare fraud statistics show that the state agencies opened and completed 963,965 welfare fraud investigations in 2016. This figure is by 33.31% higher than the number of completed investigations (723,111) noted in 2015. Among SNAP recipients, there were 5,095 prosecution convictions and 110 acquittals. The average amount of SNAP fraud per DQ from prosecution in 2016 was $3,992. A total of 55,930 disqualifications from SNAP were recorded that year.


TANF and SNAP Recipient Welfare Stats

7. In June 2020, there were a total of 2,930,544 TANF recipients in the USA.

US government welfare statistics show that in October 2018, about 2.15 million people received TANF, with the number gradually dropping to 2 million in March 2019, only to rise again due to COVID. California recorded, by far, the biggest number of TANF welfare recipients by state, i.e., 1,169,991. New York, with 309,525 TANF users, comes in second, followed by Massachusetts with 122,865. Ohio (105,398) and Washington (102,292) rank fourth and fifth. All the other states have less than 100,000 recipients. according to statistics on welfare recipients.


8. Nearly 73% of TANF recipients in the USA are children.

A total of 2,132,800 of TANF recipients are children, and this is one of the most worrying welfare facts. By contrast, government welfare statistics show that only 797,744 adults received TANF in June 2020. This presents a clear picture that American children are the most vulnerable group of citizens in the country. California (825,136) and New York (212,013) remain the states with the highest number of TANF recipients in this category, as well. When it comes to adult users, the situation is also the same, with California (344,855) and New York (97,512) taking the top spots.


Number of TANF Recipients by State and Jurisdiction

9. Almost two-thirds of TANF/GA participants stay on welfare only 1-12 months.

In a January 2009-December 2012 study by the US Census, the government collected data on the average participation period on welfare programs. These welfare dependency statistics showed that only 9.8% of recipients stay on TANF/GA between 37-48 months. Housing assistance and SNAP noted that respective 49.4% and 38.6% of participants remained between 37-48 months. Welfare facts and statistics also show that respective 24.8% and 30.4% of participants in both programs received assistance between 1-12 months. When it comes to Medicaid, 35.6% used it for 1-12 months, and 35.3% for 37-48 months. In all the programs, the percentage of participants staying 25-36 and 13-24 months is under 20%.


10. In the fiscal year 2019, a total of $30.9 billion was dedicated to providing TANF support.

Most of those funds ($6.5 billion) went to assistance, while $5 billion went to childcare. US government welfare statistics list the following sectors as major spenders: work, education and training ($3.2 billion), refundable tax credits ($2.8 billion), and head start ($2.6 billion). Child welfare, administration, and emergency and short-term benefits attributed to spending of $2.6 billion, $2.2 billion, and $1.3 billion, respectively. A significant share ($4.6 billion) went for other TANF services.


Uses of TANF Funds by Spending Categorye

11. The number of TANF participating families has significantly dropped in the period between July 1959 and June 2020.

TANF assisted 5.1 million families back in July 1959. Welfare dependency statistics put this figure as an all-time high in the history of the United States. Ever since the number of TANF welfare recipients by year has been declining. In June 2020, this figure dropped to 1.1 million families.


12. About 1.3 million low-income veterans receive SNAP assistance.

Most of the participants live in Florida (116,000), Texas (97,000), and California (94,000), according to US welfare statistics. SNAP is critical to supplying struggling veterans with an adequate diet. Namely, around 38,000 US veterans were homeless in January 2018. Approximately 20% of SNAP participating households include a veteran.


13. About 4.8 million low-income seniors participate in the SNAP program.

The biggest number of people on welfare from this group, i.e., 3 out of 4 live alone. American households with seniors received about $6.6 billion in SNAP funding in 2016, welfare statistics by year show. In 2015, about 71% of households that participated in SNAP and included a senior were below the poverty line. Around 8.3% of such households were food insecure.


14. SNAP helps about 20 million American children to afford a suitable diet every month.

The official US child welfare statistics highlight the importance of SNAP towards providing an adequate diet to millions of children. About 44% of SNAP participants are children, and 21% are adults living with those minors. Among those children receiving SNAP in the US, 31% are preschool children under 4, and 29% are kids aged 5-11. An additional 22% belong to the 12-17 age group per the official demographics of welfare recipients.


15. The average SNAP benefits per family with children in 2015 were $393 per month.

The annual average per family with children in the fiscal year 2015 was $4,700. For most SNAP participants, welfare statistics show that this amount represents an income boost by a significant 38%. Namely, a typical family with children that participated in SNAP in 2015 was represented by an adult and two kids. Such a typical family had an average income (before SNAP) of $1,027 per month or $12,300 per year. More than 80% of families receiving SNAP live in deep poverty.


Demographics of Welfare Recipients

16. In February 2020, the total amount of SSI provided to Americans was $8,059,114.

Government assistance statistics reveal that this amount, over the past 12 months, ranged from $8.03 million in January 2020 to $8.12 million in April 2019. The total amount of federal payments only reached $6,611,611 in February 2020. The same table sets the average monthly welfare rates at $574.14. In this column, there’s a noticeable increase in the average monthly payments in 2020. Namely, during the period of February-December 2019, the average payments were between $565-567. Then, there was a significant jump in January 2020, when the average went over $570 to settle at $574.83.


17. The largest share of SSI funds in February 2020 went to the visually impaired and disabled.

Out of $8,059,114 paid in SSI in February 2020, almost 6.9 million went to the visually impaired and disabled eligibility category. Welfare statistics show that people from this category received a total of $6,89,545 against $1,163,569 that went to the aged. In the United States, most people who receive public assistance are aged 18-64. This age group got a total of $4,630,974. Americans aged 65 or older received $2,298,411 in SSI funds, while the remaining $1,129,729 went to those under 18.


18. SSI recipients under 18 received the highest average monthly payment in February 2020.

The average overall SSI monthly payment in February 2020 was $574.14, according to government welfare statistics. The average monthly payment for the aged Americans was much lower $456.04, while the blind and disabled received $595.25. The highest average SSI monthly payment of $681.64 was recorded among Americans under 18. The age groups of 18-64 and 65+ received, on average, payments of $603.38 and $466.04, respectively, as revealed by the welfare demographics table.


19. 41.6% of welfare participants in the USA in 2012 were African American.

The Census welfare statistics by race show that non-Hispanic white Americans used only 13.2% of governmental assistance. The racial breakdown of welfare recipients covers the period from 2009-2012 and places Asians next on the list with 17.8%. Hispanic and African American citizens received respective 45.7% and 48.6% of welfare support, show the welfare recipients by race stats. Among those, 56.3% of African Americans and 43.6% of Hispanic people participated between 37-48 months.


20. 50% of American welfare participants in 2012 were single mothers.

Single mothers welfare statistics reveal that half of the users are families with a female householder. i.e., single mothers. In contrast, 29.5% of participants in welfare programs in 2012 were single-father families. Finally, married couples used only 14.7% of the US welfare funds. These figures show that single parents have it harder than the rest, with women having it the worst. As a result, the largest share among them (58.5%) also stays the longest (37-48) in welfare programs. In comparison, about one-third of married couples (34.8) and single-father families (35.2) participate that long.


21. In 2019, California was the state with the most (4,040,646) SNAP recipients in the USA.

This number jumped from 3,830,652 users recorded in 2018, show the welfare statistics by year. The average SNAP recipients per 100k in California in 2019 was 10,166. The second state with the most SNAP recipients (3,348,300) was Texas, and its users per 100k average were 11,511. In terms of states with the fewest participants, we have Wyoming (25,564), North Dakota (48,243), and Alaska (73,130).

(Word Population Review)

22. 63% of non-citizen households in the USA used one or more welfare programs in 2014.

In comparison, only 35% of native households participated in welfare programs the same year. Also, the immigrants on welfare statistics point to significantly higher use of food assistance programs among non-citizen households. Namely, 45% of these households needed food assistance compared to 21% of native households. Immigrant households that have lived in the USA for more than ten years participate more (70%) in welfare programs. By contrast, about 50% of those who moved to the country within the last ten years receive governmental assistance.


23. Virginia recorded the highest amount of federal funding per resident of $10,301 in 2020.

Welfare statistics by state places California at the top in terms of total federal funding with $436.10 billion. Still, the state’s federal funding per resident is insignificant $12. Moreover, the state contributes only 8.90% of all benefits recipients. New Mexico recorded the highest percentage of welfare recipients by state, i.e., 17.40%. New Jersey is the state with the lowest federal funding per resident with -$2,368.

(World Population Review)

24. Medicare and Medicaid spending jumped by respective 6.7% and 2.9% in 2019.

Government assistance statistics reveal that both programs help Americans deal with high healthcare costs. Medicare spending jumped by 6.7% and reached $799.4 billion and contributed to 21% of all health expenditures stateside. Medicaid spending increased by 2.9% to $613.5 billion and represented 16% of the US total health expenditure.



How many people are on welfare in the United States?

About 68 million Americans received some type of government assistance through the major welfare programs in 2018. Meaning, about 21.3% of American people are using one or more programs like SSI, TANF, and SNAP. This costs the USA about $212 billion every year.

Who uses welfare the most?

This depends on the program and category. When it comes to the TANF, children represent almost 80% of all recipients, while California is the state with most users. The visually impaired and disabled, on the other hand, are the biggest users of SSI funds.

How many people on welfare work?

Almost 75% of those that receive governmental assistance worked the month when they received the aid or within the past 12 months. This percentage jumps to 81% if the other household members are included in the calculations. However, the largest percentage of welfare recipients who work have unstable jobs.

How many people abuse welfare?

The fraud rate of welfare programs in the US has continuously been decreasing over the years. In 2012, it stood at 3.5%, while in 2017, it dropped to 1.5%. In 2016, the SSA opened 8,048 cases of welfare fraud and convicted 1,162 people.

How long is the average person on welfare?

This depends on the person’s eligibility as well as on the type of program. Plus, some states limit the assistance duration between 2-5 years. TANF users receive, on average, assistance between 1-12 months. About half the recipients of housing assistance participate between 37-48 months.

Which states have the most welfare recipients?

California and New York are the states with the most TANF recipients. New Mexico has the most recipients of federal funding. California and Texas recorded the most SNAP participants. So, the answer to this question depends on the program.

How much is the average welfare check?

The amount of the average welfare check depends on the program, state, and recipient. However, the average TANF support a single-parent family with two children gets is about $418 per month. This help comes with a 60-month lifetime limit. Please note that this amount can vary significantly.

Can you live off welfare?

TANF benefits aren’t enough to meet the basic needs of families. Namely, the average TANF assistance is lower than the rental costs of most 2-bedroom apartments in any of the states. For 60% of recipients, it isn’t enough to help them meet the federal poverty line either.

How much does welfare pay per child?

The amount varies depending on where you live and what program you participate in. Families with two children can get up to $500 SNAP support. For a 4-member family, the TANF assistance, however, can reach up to $900.

Bottom Line

There are various government assistance programs that help millions of Americans survive. Each of these programs has different eligibility criteria and target different categories of people in need. SSI, TANF, SNAP, housing assistance, and Medicaid are among the most commonly used.

Official welfare statistics show that more than 20% of American citizens depend on welfare, and such programs cost the country about $212 billion a year.

References: Urban, People Press, Cato, FNS, FAS, ACF, Census, CBPP, CBPP, CBPP, SSA, World Population Review, CIS, CMS

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