Unexpectedly Intriguing!
21 August 2013

According to a study by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes, the money that people can make on welfare in many states is more than they can make in an entry-level job. And in some states, it's more than what a person who works to earn the median income takes home.

The Wall Street Journal describes the findings of the study:

The state-by-state estimates are based on a hypothetical family participating in about seven of the 126 federal anti-poverty programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; the Women, Infants and Children program; Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and receiving help on housing and utilities.

In Hawaii, that translates into a 2013 package of $49,175 — up $7,265 from an inflation-adjusted $41,910 in 1995. Rounding out the top five areas for welfare benefits, along with their 2013 amounts, were: the District of Columbia ($43,099), Massachusetts ($42,515), Connecticut ($38,761) and New Jersey ($38,728).

The state with the lowest benefits package in 2013 was Mississippi, at $16,984, followed by Tennessee ($17,413), Arkansas ($17,423), Idaho ($17,766) and Texas (18,037).

From our perspective, the report is interesting because all the data is presented in the form of tables. That creates an opportunity for us, because we can take that data and visualize it!

So we have, using the data visualization tools available at IBM's ManyEyes site. And what's more, we've taken it to the next level by incorporating an interactive version of the map we created in this post to illustrate each state's typical pre-tax welfare "income", their median incomes, and also their hourly "welfare", median and also minimum wages, which we added for good measure!)

And as a bonus, we also calculated the percent of welfare benefit with respect to each state's prevailing minimum wage, so we can identify all the states where welfare really does pay more than an entry level job.

If you're reading this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, you won't be able to play with the interactive map we've created - for that, you'll need to visit the original article on our site.

In the interactive map above, you can show all six of the maps we generated at once, and you can find each state's value for each category by hovering your cursor over it. You can even switch from a color scale on the map to a bubble presentation, which the size of each state's bubble is proportionate to the value being illustrated. You just need to click the "click to interact" button in the top left corner to get started!


Tanner, Michael and Hughes, Charles. The Work Versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013. An Analysis of the Total Level of Welfare Benefits by State. Table 4 - Pretax Wage Equivalents Compared to Median Salaries. CATO Institute. [PDF Document]. 19 August 2013.

U.S. Department of Labor. Wage and Hour Division. Minimum Wage Laws in the States - January 1, 2013. [HTML Document]. Accessed 20 August 2013.


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