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Big League Economics

Welfare Generation? 52.1% of Children Living in Homes Receiving Government Assistance

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Americans under the age of 18 are growing up in a country where most of their peers live in households who take “means-tested” assistance from the United States government.

In 2016, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau, there were approximately 73,586,000 people under 18-years-old in the US, and 38,365,000 of them–or 52.1%–resided in homes where one or more people received benefits from means-tested government programs.

Means-tested government programs include: public housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-food stamps), Medicaid, public housing, and the National School Lunch Program.

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The Census Bureau, in its Current Population Survey Detailed Tables for Poverty, published its data on the percentage and number of people living in households that received means-tested government assistance.

Table POV-26 indicates that in 2016, there were approximately 319,911,000 people in the United States. Of these, 114,793,000 — 35.9 percent — lived “in a household that received means-tested assistance.”

This does not represent every person in the household receiving benefits, rather only one or more persons in the household did.

When broken down by age bracket, the least likely to receive means-tested government assistance were those 75-years-old and older (18.8%), where the most likely to receive means-tested government assistance were people under 18-years-old, at 52.1%.

According to the Census Bureau, Americans in the age brackets up to age 44 were more likely to be living in a household that received means-tested government assistance than the overall national rate of 35.9%.

Those who are between 18 and 24-years-old, the rate was 40.1%; for those 25-34, it was 36.8%; and for those 35 to 44, it was at 37.4%. For those 45 to 54-years-old, it dropped down to 30.6%–below the 35.9% overall rate.

Even after the Census Bureau excluded the school lunch program from its calculations, those under 18-years-old living in a household that received means-tested assistance (44.8%) exceeded the percentage over any other age bracket.

According to Census Bureau data, in 1998 (20 years ago), only 36.9% of Americans under the age of 18 lived in a household that received means-tested government assistance. Ten years later, in 2008, the percentage exceeded 40% for the first time. Five years later, in 2013, it exceeded 50% for the first time.

2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, for four straight years now, America has seen the majority of those under 18 living in a household that takes means-tested benefits.

Those who live with intact families, rather than living in a broken home, are less likely to take means-tested benefits, according to the Census Bureau.

In the United States in 2016, according to Table POV-26, there were approximately 192,838,000 people who lived in married-couple families. Of these, 56,690,000–or 29.4%–lived in households that received means-tested government assistance.

Still, 41.1% of the children under age 18 who lived in married-couple families lived in households that received means-tested assistance (and 34.2% received means-tested assistance even when the school lunch program was excluded).

In homes where a child under the age of 18 lived with a male householder living without a spouse, 64.1% were in households on means-tested government assistance (54.8% excluding the school lunch program).

In contrast, in homes where a child under the age of 18 lived with a female householder living without a spouse, 78.0% were in households on means-tested government assistance (69.8% excluding the school lunch program).

When it comes to children under the age of 6 and living in families where a female householder lived without a spouse, 81.8% were in households on means-tested government assistance (77.7% excluding the school lunch program).

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