PUBLISHED: 15:05 EST, 26 May 2012 | UPDATED: 15:06 EST, 26 May 2012
Almost half of all Americans live in a household where at least one member received government benefits in the first quarter of 2011, according to a new report.
Data from the Census Bureau revealed that 49.1 per cent of the population live in a household which gets at least one kind of government benefit with many likely to receive more than one.
The figure marks a steep rise in the amount of people claiming benefits, in the early 1980s only 30 per cent of the population were in a household that got government hand-outs, reported the Wall Street Journal.
In the third quarter of 2008 the figure was 44.4 per cent.
The increase in households where at least one person claims food stamps, receives unemployment benefits or where someone is enrolled in Medicaid is largely a result of the recession which began in late 2008 and carried on into 2010.
The data showed that 15 per cent of people lived in a household that received food stamps, 26 per cent had someone enrolled in Medicaid and 2 per cent had a member receiving unemployment benefits in the first quarter of last year.
It was also found that 16 per cent of the population lives in a household where at least one member receives social security benefits.
As well as more households depending on government benefits, more families are living together in multi generational households to save money, according to the Wall Street Journal’s report.
And the problem is set to get worse as millions of baby boomers retire – putting further strains on the already overburdened revenue stream.
The worrying leap in benefits payments will make the scheduled government spending cuts even harder.
Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday that the combination of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for January 2013 will send the country back into recession.
The government reported last month that the trust funds that support Social Security will run dry in 2033, three years earlier than previously projected.
More than 56million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children receive Social Security. The average retirement benefit is $1,232 a month; the average monthly benefit for disabled workers is $1,111.
About 50million people are covered by Medicare, the medical insurance programme for older Americans.
The food stamp program was used by 43.6 million people in November 2010. Before the recession, the program was serving 26 million.