Do Red States Really Take the Most Welfare?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

Lately I’ve seen a few liberals temporarily retire the narrative that Republicans are a bunch of old rich white men – to try to argue the opposite, that we’re actually the real moochers.

  • “Red States Are Welfare Queens” reads one headline over at Business Insider. The article noted that of 20 States that receive more funding from the federal government than they pay in, 16 are Red States.
  • “Residents of the 10 states Gallup ranks as “most conservative” received 21.2 percent of their income in government transfers, while the number for the 10 most liberal states was only 17.1 percent.” says the economics Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

Certainly an economist like Krugman would realize that a State is not a person. For instance, the majority of violence in Red States occurs in Blue counties and cities within those States. Do “Red States” bear the responsibility for their Blue counties and cities?

Obviously not.

And a similar thing is happening here. Red States are taking more in government handouts – but Republicans aren’t, as a Maxwell Poll on the voting patterns of those in public assistance has proven:

And that’s not all.

  • A NPR study of the long-term unemployed found that 72 percent favor Democrats. It goes without saying that they’re likely to be receiving benefits.

So if it’s mostly Democrats receiving public assistance – why the heck is it Red States receiving most of the benefits? A few possible thoughts:

  • Red States are naturally more eligible for public assistance because they have lower costs of living – and the federal poverty line (and eligibility for benefits) don’t take that into account. For instance, Texas has a higher poverty rate than California in the official statistics, but California has a higher poverty rate once adjusting for cost of living differences. Despite this, Texas would still be more eligible for federal assistance.
  • Many of these analysis are including Social Security and Medicare as “welfare” – as if recipients have the choice of foregoing them. Given that seniors tend to lean Republican, this technically could tilt the stats.

And people aside, what about the claim that Red States are moochers (as the Business Insider article implied)? It is true that Red States tend to have a larger percentage of their budgets subsidized by the federal government than Blue States – but only because their budgets are relatively smaller. According to The Federalist’s Kyle Sammin:

Against a national average of 32.62 percent [of a State’s budget] being federally subsidized, the blue states received 30.80 percent. Purple states were almost exactly at the national level with 32.92 percent coming from Washington. Red state budgets averaged 35.75 percent federal money.

A problem with this metric is that although federal funds make up a larger percentage of red states’ state budgets, the budgets in those states are generally lower overall than those of the free-spending blue states. If, instead of comparing federal funds to state budgets, we look at how much the federal government spends in intergovernmental grants per resident of a state, the results are turned on their heads.

Against a national average of $1,935 in intergovernmental spending per American, red states receive just $1,879. Blue states get considerably more, at $2,124 per resident. Purple states see the least of their money returned to them per capita, at just $1,770.

And there goes that myth.







April 17, 2018: Ep. 700 This Can’t be Happening
April 18, 2018: Ep. 701 More Swampy Connections