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Wealth & Poverty Review “A Nation of Takers”?


That’s how Nicholas Eberstadt described us, anyway, at an AEI event recently. He cites some pretty startling statistics to back it up. In 1979, the percentage of households receiving means-tested public benefits — food stamps, medicare, welfare. etc. — was only 7%. Pretty close to what we’d guess, I imagine, and still only a fraction of what many would consider “impoverished,” the bottom 10 or 20 percent.

By 2009, 30% of all Americans received some form of public benefit. Going back ten years (which include some healthy economies), the percentage of public benefit claimants have bounced between double and quadruple the unemployment rate. In other words, quite a few people who don’t need the benefits claim them anyway.
Even some wealthy folk are in on the act. Humble Hunterdon County in New Jersey (median income: $97,800) led the country in increased food stamp usage, up 513% between 2007 and 2010. Food stamp usage has doubled in six of the richest ten counties in America during the same span. One in seven Americans — some 46 million of us — are now claiming them.