The States Doing The Most (and Least) To Spread The Wealth

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5. Pennsylvania
> Average pension benefits: $20,662 (15th highest)
> Total per pupil spending: $12,512 (10th highest)
> Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $6,937 (11th highest)
> Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 39.4% (17th highest)
> No. of months of TANF received: 42 (8th highest)
> Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $322 (25th highest)

Pennsylvania ranks high in a number of categories, but is not especially exceptional in any. It spends a large amount on education, health care, public pensions, and welfare. As a result, it has the tenth highest tax burden in the country, with residents spending an average of 10.1% of their income in state and local taxes.

4. New York
> Average pension benefits: $17,459 (19th lowest)
> Total per pupil spending: $18,126 (the highest)
> Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $9,057 (the highest)
> Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 26.9% (2nd lowest)
> No. of months of TANF received: 43.9 (4th highest)
> Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $499 (6th highest)

New York spends more than $18,100 per student on education each year, which is more than any other state in the nation. Approximately $12,500 of this is spent on teacher salaries and benefits alone. The state’s medicaid payments per beneficiary of $9,057 is the largest in the country, and more than $600 than the state that spends the second most. New York has the absolute highest rate of income inequality in the country. It also has the second largest state and local tax burden, and the third highest cost of living.

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3. New Jersey
> Average pension benefits: $16,817 (18th lowest)
> Total per pupil spending: $16,271 (2nd highest)
> Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $7,985 (4th highest)
> Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 37.2% (25th highest)
> No. of months of TANF received: 40.4 (9th highest)
> Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $325 (21st highest)

New Jersey residents have access to exceptional amounts of health care benefits. Medicaid beneficiaries receive the fourth largest amount in the country. And those who receive medicare benefits, which is solely the fiscal responsibility of the federal government, receive the third largest amount. New Jersey also spends the second largest amount on education on a per student basis. Only 4% of New Jersey’s education budget derives from the federal government, with revenues split evenly between state and local governments. Unfortunately, New Jersey residents possess the largest tax burden in the country — nearly twice that of Alaska.

2. Massachusetts
> Average pension benefits: $25,596 (5th highest)
> Total per pupil spending: $14,118 (7th highest)
> Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $7,020 (10th highest)
> Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 36.1% (22nd lowest)
> No. of months of TANF received: 36.2 (16th highest)
> Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $500 (5th highest)

Massachusetts has the third highest rate of income inequality in country. However, the states offers a number of above average benefits to address this issue. The state provides the fifth highest monthly amount in cash assistance for families enrolled in TANF in the country. The state also spends the seventh greatest amount on education, resulting in what many consider to be one of the best K-12 education systems in the country. Additionally, residents covered under the Massachusetts State Employees Retirement System receive the fifth highest amount in average benefits.

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1. Rhode Island
> Average pension benefits: $25,571 (6th highest)
> Total per pupil spending: $13,707 (8th highest)
> Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $8,208 (3rd highest)
> Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 45.9% (2nd highest)
> No. of months of TANF received: 46.5 (2nd highest)
> Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $417 (10th highest)

Rhode Island performs exceptionally well in all of the “generous” state metrics. It provides Medicaid beneficiaries with the third largest amount in payments. It provides the unemployed with almost 46% of their previous weekly wages — the second highest rate. Those receiving cash assistance through TANF, on average, can receive benefits for the second longest period among all states. Of course, taxes must be relatively high to fund these programs. The state has the fifth highest state-local tax burden in the country.