The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that 48.5 percent of the population lives in a household that received some sort of public benefits in the first quarter of 2010. This represents a 4.1 percent increase since the third quarter of 2008.
Living in a household where someone receives a government benefit is not the same as saying family is on the dole. Some government benefits are earned.
If this news has you wondering just how many people are on the dole, though, keep reading. But first, it would help to know how many people live in the United States. That would be 312,371,923, according to Census Bureau estimates, with 75,600,000 of them children.
Here are the participation rates of some major public benefits programs.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
SNAP is the successor to the food stamp program. It is designed to provide supplemental assistance to the needy to buy food. 45,344,946 people participate in SNAP as of July 2011, an increase of 8.4 percent over July 2010 figures.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
TANF is a block grant program that provides funding to states to develop programs that provide work and monetary assistance to needy families. As of FY 2010, an average of 4,402, 921 people participated in TANF each month.
Women, Infants, and Children
WIC allocates funds to states to provide supplemental food, health care referrals, and nutrition information to low-income pregnant and postpartum women and to infants and children at nutritional risk, up to age 5. As of 2010, 9,177,000 people participated in WIC.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income
5,343,000 people received SSI payments in August 2011, while 52,155,000 received social security checks. SSI is based on financial need. Social Security payments (including old age, survivors and disability benefits) are derived from contributions from earnings and may be paid to workers themselves in old age or upon disability, widows and widowers or children of the workers.
National School Lunch Program
NSLP provides free or and reduced price meals for schoolchildren. 31,300,000 children received free and reduced price (subsidized) lunches at school each day as of 2009 .
8,000,000 children received free and reduced price breakfasts at school each day as of 2009.
Medicaid and Medicare
47,672,971 people were Medicare beneficiaries in 2010. Medicare is a health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
58,106,000 people were enrolled in Medicaid, a health insurance program for the needy.
The total number of beneficiaries of all of these programs combined is 261,501,838; that does not mean 83 percent of the U.S. population receives a public benefit, however, since people often participate in multiple assistance programs.
This list excludes widespread corporate subsidies paid by the government from tax dollars, another form of assistance payment.