Assistance recipients spend bigger share on basics

June 29, 2000

Families receiving public assistance differ from other families in the way they spend. Expenditures on basic needs accounted for a bigger share of their spending in 1998.

Allocation of annual expenditures by public assistance status, 1998
[Chart data—TXT]

Furthermore, such spending varies according to the number of public assistance programs a family participates in. Housing, for example, accounted for about 31 percent of the spending of families who were not receiving public assistance and about 38 percent of the spending of families receiving benefits from four or five programs.

The pattern was even stronger in food expenditures. The food budget share increases with every additional assistance program: 17 percent for families participating in one program, 20 percent if in two programs, 24 percent if three, and 26 percent among families receiving four or five types of assistance. Families that did not receive public assistance allocated a little less than 14 percent of their annual expenditures to food.

These data are a product of the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey program. The public assistance programs included in the analysis were supplementary security income, welfare, medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies, and public housing. Find more information in "Spending patterns of public-assisted families," by Lucilla Tan, Monthly Labor Review, May 2000.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Assistance recipients spend bigger share on basics on the Internet at (visited September 26, 2016).


Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics

  • A look at healthcare spending, employment, pay, benefits, and prices
    As one of the largest U.S. industries, healthcare is steadily growing to meet the needs of an increasing population with an increasing life expectancy. This Spotlight looks at how much people spend on healthcare, current and projected employment in the industry, employer-provided healthcare benefits, healthcare prices, and pay for workers in healthcare occupations.

  • Employment and Wages in Healthcare Occupations
    Healthcare occupations are a significant percentage of U.S. employment. Some of the largest and highest paying occupations are in healthcare. This Spotlight examines employment and wages for healthcare occupations.

  • Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
    Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.