Mapping The United States Of Welfare


When was the last time you stopped to think about how much the government spends on welfare?

Most people probably don’t think about it too much, but we bet even for those who do, they don’t know how much their government spends, much less what the money actually pays for.

That’s why we created a new map showing you how much each state spends on the public dole.


Our viz takes U.S. Census Bureau data from GoBankingRates to create a map for the entire country. Each bubble represents a state, and the size of the bubble corresponds to the size of the public expenditure on public welfare. We then color-coded each circle according to the size of the expense. Shades of blue mean that the state spends relatively little money, but pink and red indicate a higher-than-average amount. There’s a lot that you can quickly learn by breaking mapping public welfare expenses in this war.

First off, what is public welfare? This can be a controversial topic with a lot of stereotypes, so let’s get our definitions straight. If you rely on public welfare, then you turn to the government for help with paying your basic necessities, like food, housing and healthcare. The federal government runs programs that provide these types of things, and to varying degrees, so do some states. As you can clearly see, some places are more generous than others.

California is the obvious standout on the West Coast, dropping north of $100 billion on public assistance. Texas is the only other Western state with over $30 billion of expenditures, followed by Washington at under $12 billion.

There’s a significant cluster of high-spending states across the Northeast, including New York ($61.4B) and Pennsylvania ($26.8B). Florida stands out in the South at over $27B, thanks in large part to its retirement communities. There’s also a cluster of states in the Upper Midwest in light pink, where there a lot of old manufacturing cities.

We should also point out the states with much smaller expenditures, stretching across the Midwest and into the deep South. The simplest explanation for the lack of huge welfare budgets in these states has to do with geography: there just aren’t a lot of big cities in places like Iowa and Alabama compared to other states. This helps explain why California and New York spend so much on welfare. They rank first and fourth as the most populous states.

Here’s a straightforward list of the top ten states with the highest expenditures on public welfare. Note the enormous difference between California and New York and the rest of the country.

1. California - $103 Billion

2. New York - $61.4 Billion 

3. Texas - $35.4 Billion 

4. Florida - $27.2 Billion 

5. Pennsylvania - $26.7 Billion 

6. Illinois - $21 Billion 

7. Ohio - $20 Billion 

8. Massachusetts - $18.6 Billion 

9. New Jersey - $17.3 Billion 

10. Michigan - $16.3 Billion 

Here’s an interesting fact for you. The top ten states listed above spend more on public welfare ($346.9B) than all of the bottom forty states (plus the District of Columbia) combined ($262.7B). 

Regardless of how populated any particular state is, you want to pay attention to these numbers because they foreshadow future budget problems.

When you consider the fact that many states run operating deficits and have enormous debt problems, you begin to wonder if some of these numbers are sustainable for the long term.


undertow1141 Oliver's Law Fri, 12/01/2017 - 01:51 Permalink

Well, CA has a pop of roughly 33 million. Divide 103 billion by that and you get 3121r welfare dollars/yr per person in CA.Where as South Dakota has a pop of 865,454. 1 billion divided by that gets 1155 welfare dollars/yr per person.Ca has roughly 5008666 welfare recipients. 103 billion divided by that means that welfare pays each of them (if it was distributed equally, it's not) $20564/yr.A fulltime 40/hr a week job at the CA min wage (10.50/hr) minus taxes in CA would pay $15724.

In reply to by Oliver's Law

fallout11 besnook Fri, 12/08/2017 - 09:42 Permalink

You've got it upside down. Handing out free money (welfare and Section 8) for housing increases the median price of said housing, as more money chases the same goods/services. CA and NY have a housing bubble partially BECAUSE of the massive handouts there, now in their fifth decade.  Normal free market forces would normally encourage people to leave these "expensive" states and move somewhere affordable, but they are incentivized to stay instead via free money handouts, a cumulative problem.

In reply to by besnook

bluez Fri, 12/01/2017 - 00:21 Permalink

What is it with these raw numbers? Doesn't the number of people who live, like, actually in the state make a difference? You want to compare New York State to Kentucky?

KekistanisUnite Fri, 12/01/2017 - 01:00 Permalink

New York and California should be first TO GO. The reason for the considerable gap between the two I think is due to the population deficit. New York is now the 4th most populous state having fallen behind Florida back in 2015. Currently 19.7m versus California's massive 39.2 million. Nearly 20 million more people in an equally blue state means more welfare money spent naturally.

besnook Fri, 12/01/2017 - 01:35 Permalink

i am glad tyhis guy passed 3rd grade math so he could get a job. so the most populous states spend the most on welfare. he is fn brilliant and a trump supporter, too, i bet.

Intelligence_I… Fri, 12/01/2017 - 01:54 Permalink

Welfare is a real problem where im at it not only subsudizes the niggers and the non english speaking diversity enrichment leeches we got the old "war vets" on full disability walking around the crack dens with fucken ID tags and veteran hats like they are bullet proof because they are essentially whales who blow their whole disability checks on crack and are basically VIPS to the crack dealers. Socialism is a disease.  

teslacoil Fri, 12/01/2017 - 04:16 Permalink

If the crazy fat kid is gonna nail us, he should start with CA, then NY.And to think we are forced, at gun point, to pay into this fucking corrupt system.

astroloungers Fri, 12/01/2017 - 06:38 Permalink

The raw numbers are so skewed that the information is useless. A % of the top and bottom are statiscal outliers and need to be removed for a more accurate view. Think the fat middle of the bell curve, this does not reflect that.