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February 8, 2012

February 8, 2012 | News Releases on

Average Federal Aid Passes Average Disposable Income

More Americans dependent on federal government than ever before

WASHINGTON, FEB. 8, 2012—The average American relying on federal government assistance receives more in benefits than the average American’s disposable personal income, according to The Heritage Foundation’s newly released 2012 Index of Dependence on Government.

The Index reports Americans who rely on government receive an average $32,748 worth of benefits, surpassing the average American’s disposable personal income of $32,446.

Overall, the Index—which scores the nation’s dependency across numerous federal assistance programs that were once done through communities, churches, neighborhood groups and the private sector—rose 8.1 percent in 2010 from the most recent data available.

It found more than 67.3 million Americans depend on federal assistance for everything from food, shelter and clothing to college tuition and health care. These benefits cost federal taxpayers roughly $2.5 trillion annually.

While the number of Americans receiving federal aid rises, the number of federal taxpayers continues to drop, with nearly half of Americans (49.5 percent) not paying any federal income taxes. “The danger of a growing government-dependent population is that it’s voting for more benefits that end up being paid by fewer taxpayers,” says William Beach, Index co-author and director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis. “At some point, this unsustainable fiscal model will collapse.”

To reverse the disturbing course, Beach says Congress must rein in federal spending, reform welfare and entitlement programs, and encourage more community-based aid and personal responsibility. “Dependency isn’t a bad thing—but when aid from private charities, communities and neighbors is replaced with bureaucratic programs, research shows that Americans are less likely to prosper and achieve true independence,” he adds. 

See the Index’s full findings at And learn about Heritage’s long-term fiscal plan, “Saving the American Dream,” to cut debt, reduce spending and restore American prosperity at

About the Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with nearly 700,000 individual, foundation and corporate donors. Founded in 1973, it develops public policy solutions that advance free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values and a strong national defense.

This press release has been updated to reflect correct information regarding the date of data available.

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