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Policy: Entitlements

Alaska, West Coast lead U.S. in receiving welfare

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Politics,Alaska,Entitlements,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Welfare,Poverty,Census Bureau,Poverty Rate

Alaska has the highest rate of residents receiving welfare of any state.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that almost 7 percent of people in the Frontier State receive public assistance from the federal or state government, more than a percentage point more than the state with the next highest rate.

West Coast states lead the rest of the country in the share of residents receiving welfare. More than half a million people got public benefits in California in 2012, the most recent year for which welfare data from the Census' American Community Survey is available.

California, Washington and Oregon all had public assistance rates over 4 percent. The only other states with similarly high rates of dependency were the rural New England states of Vermont and Maine.

The southern states of Georgia, *Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas had fewer than 2 percent of resident receive welfare benefits in 2012. The oil-rich state of North Dakota tied with Louisiana for the lowest rate at 1.5 percent.

For the country as a whole, welfare recipiency has grown from about 2.1 percent in 2007, the year in which the recession officially began, to roughly 2.9 percent in 2012.

The Census Bureau data released Tuesday counts people receiving only Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the cash welfare program that was previously known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children before the 1996 reform law, and state assistance programs. It does not account for federal in-kind benefits, such as food stamps or disability insurance, both of which have grown significantly in the wake of the financial crisis.

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