What Are the Current Statistics on Welfare Recipients?

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total number of Americans who were receiving welfare in 2011 was approximately 109 million, or 35 percent of the population. However, the Department of Health and Human Services reports that about 71 million Americans were receiving payments at that time.

The latest data from both government sources was released in the fourth quarter of 2014 and is the latest official data available, as of July 2015. The statistics from the Census Bureau include households in which one or more persons receives some form of means-tested federal assistance, which includes housing assistance, cash payments through programs such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It does not include people who receive Social Security or Medicare.

Data from the Department of Health and Human Services includes households in which one or more individuals receives cash assistance in the form of TANF, SSI or SNAP. The report emphasizes that 5.2 percent of American households are dependent on welfare for over 50 percent of their annual income, while most welfare recipients receive some income from work. It also notes that thirty-eight percent of American children under the age of 5 were recipients of some form of federal cash assistance, as were 12.9 percent of those over age 65.