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New Interactive Data Tool Shows Characteristics of Those Who Receive Assistance From Government Programs

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Note: The data visualization this story is based on was updated September 1, 2022 with more recent data. Three numbers in the story have been updated to reflect the change since it was first published.

The U.S. social safety net is a complex combination of programs administered by local, tribal, state and federal agencies that together assist tens of millions of Americans annually.

A new U.S. Census Bureau interactive data tool sheds light on the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the individuals and households that received a range of social safety net benefits from 2013 to 2019.

Users can also select from hundreds of different program combinations to view demographic or household information about those receiving benefits from multiple programs.

Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the tool provides information on 11 social safety net programs in five different assistance areas:

Who Received Assistance From One or More Programs?

The tool allows users to explore information about individuals and households receiving social safety net benefits in a selected year.

Examples of statistics the tool provides:

  • 13.7% of the total population received SNAP in 2015.
  • Among those receiving energy aid, 13.5% also received SSI and 20.6% were between the ages of 50 and 64 in 2019.
  • 34.7% of households included someone who was receiving Social Security benefits in 2018.
  • 69.6% of households where someone was receiving free or reduced-price school meals also included someone who was receiving Medicaid/CHIP in 2013.

Users can also select from hundreds of different program combinations to view demographic or household information about those receiving benefits from multiple programs.

Among them:

  • Among individuals receiving benefits from Medicaid/CHIP and WIC, 58.5% were also getting SNAP in 2016.
  • 50.1% of those receiving SNAP, TANF, and rental subsidies were Black and 27.7% were Hispanic in 2014.
  • 58.7% of households receiving both Social Security and energy aid included just one person living alone in 2017.


Program Participation by Characteristics of Recipients

In addition to providing statistics about specific programs or program combinations, the tool also allows users to view program participation rates for individuals and households with certain characteristics.

For example:

  • 14.6% of Hispanic women between the ages of 18 and 64 got SNAP and 5.2% had their rent reduced through subsidies in 2018.
  • Among adults ages 65 or older with less than a high school degree, 17.7% received SSI and 34.9% received Medicaid/CHIP in 2015.
  • Only 2.8% of households with at least one child received TANF in 2013.
  • Among rental households below the official poverty threshold, 61.4% included at least one person getting SNAP and 19.2% included at least one person getting Social Security benefits in 2016.

This new tool highlights SIPP’s strength in providing information on a wide range of social safety net programs and the ways they overlap and interact with one another. It adds to the existing library of detailed statistics available in various SIPP table packages.

SIPP is a nationally representative longitudinal survey administered by the Census Bureau that provides comprehensive information on the dynamics of income, employment, household composition and government program participation.

Michael D. King is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.

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Page Last Revised - August 30, 2022
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