Spending habits of families receiving public aid vs. families who do not

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  • AJC Eden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 11:05 p.m.

    Why is a family on public assistance spending $100/month of other peoples generosity on its "entertainment"? What kind of mindset feels justified in doing that? It is a sign of how gov't run welfare destroys the sensibilities of the excipients.o

  • Hauulamom Hauula, HI
    Dec. 20, 2013 10:36 p.m.

    Could they be spending less on housing because they have subsidized rent? Could they be spending less on food because they receive food assistance with WIC and food banks? Could you be averaging in the "very rich" to skew the data to make it look like those supporting themselves ( along with those on government assistance) spend more?
    When I go to a grocery store in Hawaii (where I live) I see steak in the cart of those using government assistance to buy food after I have passed by the hamburger without buying any because it was too expensive. I see professionally decorated birthday cakes purchased with food stamps when I just bought a cake mix on sale because it cost less than baking from scratch. I have never once afforded a professionally decorated sheet cake. Our son in college using food stamps and WIC ate far far better than his parents who were trying to live on only two incomes.

  • Walt Nicholes Orem, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 10:35 p.m.

    This is a classic example of how to mislead with statistics. First of all, what type of averages were used - mean, median, mode? It doesn't say, but I will guess that they use mode to emphasize their points. Second, are they comparing apples and oranges? If we assume that both sets of subgroups have the same income, then the total spending doesn't match up. If a family who "earns" $40K a year is compared with a family who "collects" $40K who spends more on housing and food and so forth. Clearly a family making $100K will spend higher in virtually all categories than a family that makes "$40K.

    Perhaps percentages of income should be shown rather than total values, and, as a control, a family who "earns" $100K should be used for contrast with a family who "earns" $40K.

    With a limit on words I can't go on, but you will get the picture. As Disraeli said, there are Lies, Darned lies (cleaned up for the DN) and Statistics.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 8:27 p.m.

    I just returned from the Hale Center Theater's EXCELLENT performance of the classic story of an ultra-conservative Republican who, with the help of four phantasmal visitors comes to realize the error of his ways. In one night he changes from a man consumed by greed and lust for wealth and is transformed into a man whose generosity and fairness will illuminate and bless the world and people around him. He becomes a Democrat and the world is better for it.

    This should be required watching for people who have bought the cruel mythology of today's GOP and conservative hate radio hosts.

    The Hale Center Theater's actors caught the spirit of the season, and as one of them says at the end, "God bless us, everyone!"

    Everyone. Even those who, for whatever reason, must depend in part on help from others.

  • There You Go Again Saint George, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 2:08 p.m.

    "...According to the Atlantic, the welfare queen is a myth...".

    Wait a minute...

    Ronald Reagan spent years directing his political messaging around lampooning the welfare queen...

    Why would Ronald Reagan lampoon a myth?

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Dec. 20, 2013 1:11 p.m.

    "If we pay our taxes we are 100% compliant with a secular government's program. To extend Christian virtues to such programs is foolhardy."

    Now that's something I can agree with. Who cares if it meets Christian, Muslim, Taoist, Buddhist, or any other religious standard. Social welfare programs are how we as an American society have decided to deal with our fellow citizens in need. This has nothing to do with religion.

    If you want to conflate these programs with some religious principle you support in order to assuage your conscience that's your prerogative but please don't transfer that meaning to the rest of us.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 20, 2013 1:04 p.m.

    We know how much the govt spends on assistance programs, we don't know what religious organizations spend on assistance programs. We don't know what percent of fast offerings and humanitarian aid collected every year by churches are disbursed every year. One study by Indiana Univ found that of money donated to churches, 20% went to programs for the needy and 70% went for church operations.

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 11:46 a.m.

    To those passing judgment on comments here as unchristlike, may I suggest a couple of ideas:
    1) If we pay our taxes we are 100% compliant with a secular government's program. To extend Christian virtues to such programs is foolhardy, but as long as I pay my taxes, I should be considered a charitable person according to you critics.
    2) If I pay my fast offerings and volunteer at the storehouse, you likewise have no complaint. Besides, you have no idea what I am doing as a Christian.
    3) Do you recall when the Savior chided the folks who followed him around the lake after being fed? Was he being unchristlike to turn them away when they were looking for a second handout?

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 10:54 a.m.

    The comments on this thread lead me to question the veracity of those who claim they're follower's of Christ.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 10:26 a.m.

    The thoughtless selfishness displayed in many comments here is simply pathetic.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 10:25 a.m.

    DNSub says: "Within food vendors, the SKU codes should show what was purchased, and I bet it is not wholesome basic foods and baby formula, but mainly junk food and prepared stuff."

    The first comment is completely false. Check Snopes and other fact checkers.

    The second is OPINION not founded in fact. But there is some basis to it. Look at prices in a grocery store. The food with lowest prices is usually not very healthy while food that is will have large price tags.

    Thus, if a person is trying to stretch an EBT card to feed a family, what will they buy? What CAN they buy?

    Here's a challenge for those who feel others are should not receive our help -- try living in a wheelchair using public assistance for a couple of months. You will change your opinions.

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 10:24 a.m.

    Way back in 1973 I heard Elder Featherstone talk about welfare in conference.
    Maybe you remember it, too. He told of a Bishop who gave 67 pounds of beef each month to one family. He was teaching a lesson that welfare programs need common sense.
    Articles like this do not help us control expenses and incentives.
    Do these housing costs reflect the subsidy for housing under section 8? Or are the figures based on what the person paid?
    Torture numbers and they will confess to anything.

  • Brent T. Aurora CO Aurora, CO
    Dec. 20, 2013 9:56 a.m.

    Here's a secret, too. Commit a crime, be placed in prison -- get free education, housing, food, healthcare, dental care, eye care, gym facilities, clothing, security... Just saying, if you are willing to give up "freedom" and make adjustments... Those on welfare assistance (at least in theory) have their financial lives open to ridicule and have to juggle jumping through legal hoops. If this really makes some folks envious, by all means take your piece of the pie.

  • Ballplayer Spanish Fork, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 9:50 a.m.

    An example of the misleading nature of the conclusions can be found in the "Insurance and Pensions" portion of the graph. People on public assistance programs don't get subsidized life insurance or pensions, both of which would fall in this category. So they probably don't spend anything at all on these products. What little there spend here would be for auto policies, and perhaps a health premium if they don't qualify for 100% subsidy. People who are not on that assistance plan there finances, and purchase appropriate insurance products to protect their families against risk.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 8:24 a.m.

    Pragmatist, thanks for reminding us that it is "persons" who are receiving assistance. It reminded me that the greatest abusers of government assistance are those "persons" who are CORPORATIONS.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Dec. 20, 2013 7:47 a.m.

    Actually this graph does have relevance to this conversation. It may not have all the details of spending that would be interesting but here's why it's relevant.

    The thrust of many of the comments here is that welfare payments are miss spent. The study however shows that 70% of aid recipients income is spent on food, housing, and transportation, compared to 65% of non aid recipients. So the studies point is that aid recipients are in fact spending their money exactly where you and I spend our money..taking care of the basic needs of our families.

    My guess as to why this is so is because contrary to the Republican meme, normal aid recipients are hard working responsible people just like you and me who for a myriad of reasons don't make enough to get by.

    Hey, we all know "a person" who in our opinion abuses govt. programs, but one person here speculates that aid recipients don't buy healthy food, and another tells about how snap recipients buy steaks. Go figure.

  • Max Charlotte, NC
    Dec. 20, 2013 6:46 a.m.

    This is hilarious. What in the world is this supposed to prove? Didn't we already know that families with higher incomes spend more than families with lower incomes?

    Dec. 20, 2013 5:46 a.m.

    Having been in school with 4 kids and receiving SNAP benefits for my wife & kids and now having a decent, but definitely NOT great income, since I have graduated, I can say that I am not able to spend as much money, particularly on food. What this does not compare is how much GOVERNMENT money these people are spending. On welfare while in school: we got our rent completely paid every month; SNAP benefits to buy pretty much any food that we wanted as long as it wasn't already cooked (no fast food); some assistance to heat our house (utility money for the gas company); and completely covered healthcare for my wife & kids. One of my kids has a health condition that requires daily shots that cost about $1500 per vial and she gets 4 vials per month. My mortgage is more than the government was paying on our rent, but I definitely cannot afford to pay for my kid's shots and we are not eating steak for dinner anymore. Please report how much of their OWN money AND how many TAXPAYER dollars are being spent.

  • Truthseeker2 SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:53 p.m.

    "I know somebody who receives public assistance. Somehow he manages to have a boat, a nice truck, 4 wheeler's and other toys. Yes, it's nice to see my tax money going to those "necessities".

    What type of public assistance does this person receive? With some programs there are "asset" limits. Perhaps this person is fraudulently receiving assistance? If so, you ought to report them to authorities there in UT. UT has an asset limit of $2000 for people receiving TANF, however all vehicles owned by the applicant are excluded from the asset test in UT. Other states have different limits/exclusions.

    Likewise, if you witness people buying and returning food just to get cash, you ought to notify/question your local legislators and state authorities about the practices.

    Howard Beal
    Did you look at the study itself?

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:50 p.m.


    Living on welfare sounds great (according to some of you)! 4 wheelers, boats, mansions, man maybe we should all go onto welfare! According to some of you it sounds like everyone is just "dying" to go onto welfare and food stamps!

    I've never seen such classy envy as those with jobs and salaries looking down upon those without.

  • Kathy. Iowa, Iowa
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:50 p.m.

    Not sure how they tracked the spending, was it self reported? Census data is self reported to a worker. Can't see them reporting that they sold their SNAP card to get a manicure.

    My own experience has been seeming them buying steaks at the meat counter and paying for it with welfare.

    Obviously there are those that squander and those that don't.

    When I was a manager of an apartment complex a single mother of two was bragging how much money she was spending on Christmas and how many programs she had signed up for. She was bragging how she told them she didn't have money for Christmas but was instead spending $500 and this was in 1980.

  • PP Eagle Mountain, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:34 p.m.

    I love the fist premise of the article... This "proves" the welfare queen does not exist. Does anyone here think that the term welfare queen means they are getting rich on welfare? It is a tongue in cheek saying that means they are too lazy to work so they sit around like queens on the little that they can get from welfare. And forget about the attack against the "rich" slant of the article and the associated graph. Good work AP.

    What they should really do is show this data to the chronic welfare abusers so show how they could be living. Sadly they would just use the data to "prove" how unfair life is.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:23 p.m.

    @Dn Sucscriber. Are you jealous of people on welfare? I am not. I am sure there is abuse of the system but I think it is small in comparsion to the number of people these programs actually help.

  • pby47 St George, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 9:32 p.m.

    Every day I see people use their food stamps card to buy food at Walmart, then push their cart straight over to the customer service area and return it all. In exchange they get a Walmart debit card that allows them to buy anything in the store. Walmart needs to stop this charade and refuse to allow food items to be returned, except in exchange for other food, perhaps. Everybody plays the game and we all see no evil, hear no evil.

  • mecr Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:53 p.m.

    I know somebody who receives public assistance. Somehow he manages to have a boat, a nice truck, 4 wheeler's and other toys. Yes, it's nice to see my tax money going to those "necessities".

    And about the article, of course I spend more than the one that receives public assistance! I make more money! Also, don't they get reduced price housing, food stamps, etc? Whoever made that study is certainly lacking some good brain cells.

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:47 p.m.

    @ Truthseeker2- Thanks for the correction that the public aid spent at strip clubs was from the "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" program, not the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." There are so many overlapping welfare programs it is easy to get confused.

    However, both programs are part of the "families receiving public aid" scope of this story.

    As Lady Thatcher said "The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money to spend."

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:34 p.m.

    What would be more insightful is to have the percentage of money spent on things rather than a raw dollar figure. Of course, those not on assistance with more money are going to spend more money on anything...

  • Truthseeker2 SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:03 p.m.

    "Past reports have shown a lot of it spent at strip clubs and other obviously non-food operations."

    You are confusing TANF (cash cards) with SNAP (foodstamp cards)

    To be eligible as a store in SNAP program a store(s) must sell food for home preparation and consumption and meet one of the criteria:

    (A) Offer for sale, on a continuous basis, at least three varieties of qualifying foods in each of the following four staple food groups, with perishable foods in at least two of the categories:

    dairy products


    (B) More than 50% of the total dollar amount of all retail sales sold in the store must be from the sale of eligible staple foods.

    It is up to states to find/prosecute fraud. Fraud involving SNAP benefits often occur at small mom-and-pop type stores where retailers give cash in exchange for the EBT cards. (google: foodstamp fraud Ogden). Several states have passed legislation making it illegal to use TANF cards at liquor stores, casinos etc.

    I would recommend DN readers click on the link to the BLS report cited in the article for additional information.

  • Chris B Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 6:06 p.m.

    Do we know the average time that people are relying on taxpayers? I would be curious.

  • Chris B Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 5:58 p.m.

    People spending taxpayer money SHOULD spend much less than people spending their own money. I certainly hope this is the case always.

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 5:36 p.m.

    This really needs better research, photos and captions.

    First, the photo and its caption from the Administration Propaganda (or Associated Press as they sometimes call themselves) is clearly advocacy "journalism" aimed at passing the Democrats perpetual extensions of welfare benefits.

    Second, the source of the data, the "Consumer Expenditure Survey" is actually based on self reported data. Accuracy or trustworthiness of data from welfare recipients is questionable.

    Third, the spending by families on welfare does NOT include "in kind" aid, such as housing which is free or subsidized; free medicare; free child care (under multiple programs) or the charitable contributions from soup kitchens, shelters, etc.

    It should be possible to use the electronic purchase records of the EBT ('food stamp") cards to tell where the money was actually spent. Past reports have shown a lot of it spent at strip clubs and other obviously non-food operations. Within food vendors, the SKU codes should show what was purchased, and I bet it is not wholesome basic foods and baby formula, but mainly junk food and prepared stuff.

    The actual use of OUR welfare money by the recipients needs a real thorough study, far more than this selective reporting.

  • Vladhagen Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 5:30 p.m.

    Is this surprising? It is called basic statistics and averages. I am a college graduate with a salary; I make a lot more than someone on welfare. I hence can spend a lot more. (This isn't to say that there are not college grads on welfare, just that my earning potential is much higher than what welfare pays.) But if the government paid for my housing and my food, ummm yes, my costs would go down. Duh. How is it surprising that people on welfare spend less on such things? If the government pays for everything for you, you tend to not need to spend much. What a bunch of crock. As a career math person, this sort of study is highly suspect to me.

    If you are living on government assistance, that is fine; best luck in finding employment. But it seems like there are far too many people who live off the government as their employment. Dole earner is actually their employment.

  • higv Dietrich, ID
    Dec. 19, 2013 5:29 p.m.

    People on welfare can't spend as much. How many people in HUD housing have TV's with cable or dish? Drive decent cars and have washers and dryers? Some don't but many may do. Even people on food stamps and living in hud homes have a decent standard of living.

  • brs27 Beaver, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 4:45 p.m.

    This would be good, but there is a good chance this data is heavily skewed. If the study compares all families receiving assistance against all families not receiving, then this result is completely expected. OBVIOUSLY families who have a larger income are going to spend more. In order for this study to be useful it needs to compare families with similar income levels who are, or are not, receiving assistance. Probably the most useful would be to compare families who miss out on eligibility assistance by $100 to those who are $100 under the qualification. THAT would be an interesting data set.