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Most Americans benefit from entitlements

December 18, 2012|By David Lauter
  • Protestors call for an increase of taxes on the wealthy and voice opposition to cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid during a demonstration in Chicago.
Protestors call for an increase of taxes on the wealthy and voice opposition… (Scott Olson / Getty Images )

Forget the 47%. A new study finds that 71% of Americans live in a household in which at least one member has benefited from one of the federal government’s major entitlement programs.

The new data, based on a survey by the Pew Research center, underscore the wide reach of the spending programs that make up the lion’s share of the federal budget. More than half of Americans (55%) have personally benefited from one of the government’s six best-known entitlement programs, including 53% of  people who voted for Mitt Romney in November’s election and 59% of those who voted for President Obama.

The Pew survey, taken from Nov. 28 through Dec. 5, among 2,511 adults, asked people if they personally had received benefits from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps or welfare.

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Just over one quarter of adults had received unemployment benefits with a similar percentage saying they had gotten Social Security payments. Just over one in five reported benefiting from Medicare, just under one in five had received food stamps, about one in 10 had received Medicaid payments and 8% had received welfare.

Rural residents disproportionately benefit, with 62% who live in rural areas having received entitlement payments of some variety, compared with 54% of urban or suburban residents. In part, that reflects the fact that rural residents tend to be older than city dwellers and therefore more likely to have received Social Security payments.

Women are somewhat more likely to have benefited than men, and blacks are somewhat more likely to have done so than either whites or Latinos.

If veterans benefits and federally subsidized college loans and grants are included, the share of Americans who have personally benefited rises to 70%, and the households that include at least one beneficiary rise to 86%, the survey found.

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