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.
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.