States With the Most Government Benefits

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The Great Recession left many families in need of greater economic security. Although federal programs provide some safety net, the states supply much of the security.

A new report rated Washington as the state providing the most economic security for families. Utah, meanwhile, received the lowest grade. While some states do better than others, the report argues that all states could do more to help American families.

Click here to see which states offer the most benefits

Click here to see which states offer the least benefits

The Scorecard, published by nonprofit group Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), graded states based on their performance in 85 policy areas in five categories: income, job quality, education, public supports and savings and assets. With only one state scoring better than B+ and 20 states receiving a D- or worse, most states have a long way to go to meet the report’s standards.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., WOW’s acting president, Shawn McMahon, explained that while many studies consider poverty and foreclosure rates as measures of economic well-being, WOW wanted to reflect the ways a state government attempts to improve the economic security of families.

When grading, WOW considered policies instead of spending. These policies, however, invariably result in more state spending. Government expenditure per capita was higher than the national average of $6,427 in each of the 10 top-scoring states, based on 24/7 wall St.’s independent analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. While there were notable exceptions like North Dakota, most of the lowest-scoring states spent less than the national average.

The states that received the highest grades from WOW pay for these policies by taxing their populations more. Of the 10 states with the highest economic security scores, eight brought in more tax revenue per capita than the national average of $2,411 per person, according to data provided by the Tax Foundation and reviewed by 24/7 Wall St. The majority of the states with the lowest scores brought in among the least tax revenue.

States that provide more in benefits for their residents tend to be liberal states, while conservative states are likely to offer less. All 10 states that scored the highest voted for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Each of the 10 lowest-scoring states voted for Governor Romney in 2012.

Still, no state stands out for either following most of these policies well or for completely failing. “No state seems to be putting it all together,” McMahon explained. “When we look at the patterns, states like Washington state are in the top 10 for categories like income and job quality, but they are in the bottom 10 for education and savings and assets.” Utah, which scored the worst overall for economic security, actually scored higher than top state Washington in the assets and savings policies category.

Based on WOW’s report “The Economic Security Scorecard: Policy and Security in the States,” 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states that provide the most government benefits. Each state received a letter grade based on how well it helped residents in the following categories: (1) low-income family support, (2) employment benefits, (3) public support, (4) education and training, and (5) savings to ensure economic stability. WOW graded the states in each of the five categories based on policies and practices. For further context, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2011 tax collections per capita provided by the Tax Foundation and expenditures per capita and median household income data provided by the Census Bureau for 2011.

These are the states with the most government benefits.