Think Welfare Recipients Abuse The System? You Should See This Chart

05/09/2014 10:16 am ET | Updated May 09, 2014

Public assistance recipients haven't gone without criticism.

They've been compared to "wild animals" by political candidates, scrutinized for simply buying seafood -- as "The Daily Show" humorously pointed out -- and would have to pee in cups to prove that they're drug-free if some lawmakers had their way.

But for all the anecdotal horror stories about people abusing the welfare system for personal gain, the numbers tell a different story.

Below is a graph created by The Atlantic using numbers provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditures survey of 2011 -- the most recent year for which data are available.

As the chart shows, families receiving public assistance spend significantly less than families not receiving public assistance on essentially everything -- including roughly half on housing, a third less on food, almost two-thirds less on entertainment and a fraction on healthcare.

With household budgets like these, public assistance recipients clearly aren't abusing the system to live lavishly -- they're trying to make ends meet.

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