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

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

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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