Reliance on government benefits even higher than during depth of recession

Zachary Roth

More evidence that for many, the "recovery" hasn't been much better than the recession.

Nearly half of all Americans lived in a household that received some kind of government benefit during the first three months of last year, the Wall Street Journal reports, based on new Census data. That's even higher than the figure recorded during the depths of the Great Recession.

Just over 48 percent of Americans lived in households that took in benefits during the first quarter of 2010--up from 44.8 percent in the third quarter of 2008, the heart of the downturn.

The bleak economy appears to be driving the increase. The largest single category of benefits was means-tested programs that are designed to help the needy--things like food stamps, subsidized housing, or Medicaid. Just over 34 percent of Americans lived in a household that received means-tested benefits.

The recession officially lasted from December 2007 until June 2009. But growth and job creation since then has been anemic, leaving a growing number of Americans dependent on government help.

Most of the rest came from programs for the elderly. Of older Americans, 14.5 percent lived in a household where someone was on Medicare, and 16 percent lived in a home that took in Social Security benefits. The Obama administration and Congress have been considering cuts to both programs in order to trim the deficit.

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