By Adam Orr
Ashe County residents, like the rest of America, have come to increasingly rely on government benefit programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security since 1969, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The share of American’s income that comes from government entitlement programs has more than doubled over the last four decades, rising from 8 percent in 1969, to 18 percent in 2009.
On Feb. 11, the New York Time’s Jeremy White, Robert Gebeloff, Ford Fessenden, Archie Tse, and Alan McLean released an interactive entitlement map of the United States, with data provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The map tracks the percentage of residents that utilize federal government entitlement programs, and per capita entitlement spending.
The map details total entitlement spending, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Income Support to low income Americans, Veterans benefits, and Unemployment Insurance for the years 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009.
The map is available at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/02/12/us/entitlement-map.html.
In 2009, payments from the federal government to individual Ashe County residents was more than 30 percent, or $9,103, of total per capita income. The figure includes government payouts to individuals in more than 50 benefit programs, including food stamps and Medicare.
In 1969, federal entitlement spending made up 12 percent, or $1,177 of all Ashe County income. The number rose to 16.19 percent, or $2,357, in 1979, decreased to 15.87 percent, or $3,275 in 1989,and reached 19.69 percent, or $5,786, in 1999.
An increasing reliance on government entitlements is not a strictly Ashe County phenomenon. Over the same time period, government benefits accounted for 7.8 percent of (per capita United States) personal income in 1969, 11.2 percent in 1979, 11.5 percent in 1989, 12.6 percent in 1999, and 17.6 percent in 2009.
Other high country counties show a similar rise in reliance on government entitlements.
In 2009, 30.88 percent, or $9,353, of Alleghany County personal income came from the federal government. In Avery County, the figure was 27.93 percent, or $8,308. 27.62 percent, or $8,950, of Wilkes County personal income in 2009 was received from the Federal government, and 17.7 percent, or $5,709, in Watauga County.
Social Security includes pensions for older workers and survivors, and workers compensation. Baby boomers are retiring everywhere however, Social Security is relied on most heavily in places like Michigan, where the economy has kept young workers from moving in and older retirees from moving out.
In Ashe County, Social Security accounted for 5.87 percent, or $576, of county income in 1969, 7.67 percent, or $1,116, in 1979, 6.96 percent, or $1,435, in 1989, 7.62 percent, or $2,239, in 1999, and 10.9 percent, $3,266, in 2009.
Social security accounted for 3.4 percent of US income in 1969, 5 percent in 1979, 5 percent in 1989, fell to 4.8 percent in 1999, and increased to 5.6 percent in 2009.
Medicare payouts include reimbursements for health care, mainly for the elderly.
In Ashe County Medicare accounted for 1.2 percent, or $118, of income in 1969, 2.09 percent, or $304, in 1979, 2.67 percent, or $552, in 1989, 3.89 percent, or $1,143, and 7.6 percent, or $2,277 in 2009.
Across the United States, Medicare accounted for .9 percent of income in 1969, 1.5 percent in 1979, 2.2 percent in 1989, 2.6 percent in 1999, and 4.1 percent in 2009.
Medicaid includes health care reimbursements for low-income adults and children. Among the largest recipients include New York’s boroughs and other eastern cities, as well as Indian reservations, which rank low in Social Security because life expectancies are low, rely heavily on Medicaid.
Medicaid accounted for .33 percent, or $33, of Ashe County income in 1969, .73 percent, or $106, in 1979, 2.01 percent, or $415, in 1989, 4.46 percent, or $1,311, in 1999, and 5.61 percent, or $1,682 in 2009.
Medicaid accounted for .6 percent of personal income in 1969, 1.1 percent in 1979, 1.4 percent in 1989, 2.4 percent in 1999, and 3.1 percent in 2009.
Income Support includes aid to low-income families, food stamps, disability payments, and the earned income tax credit. Big cities and rural counties show the most dependence on these benefits, including places like Owlsley County, Ky., where payments for food stamps are the highest per capita in the county.
Income Support made up 1.47 percent, or $144, of Ashe County income in 1969. The figure grew to 2.28 percent, or $332, in 1979, fell to 2.05 percent, or $423 in 1989, declined further to 1.94 percent, or $571, in 1999, and rose to 2.38 percent, or $714 in 2009.
Across the entire United States, aid to low income families made up .9 percent of total income in 1969, grew to 1.4 percent in 1979, fell to 1.2 percent in 1989, rose to 1.3 percent in 1999, and grew to 1.9 percent in 2009.
Unemployment benefits include direct payments to those who have recently lost jobs, especially in the upper Midwestern states and the southern United States, where manufacturing has declined.
In 1969, unemployment benefits made up just .37 percent, or $37, in total Ashe County income. The number increased to .56 percent, or $81, in 1979, fell to .38 percent, or $79, in 1989, rose to .43 percent, or $127, in 1999, and reached 1.85 percent, or $553, during the peak of the recent recession in 2009.
Direct unemployment insurance payments made up .3 percent of personal income in 1969, grew to .5 percent in 1979, .3 percent in 1989, .3 percent in 1999, and spiked to 1.1 percent in 2009, the height of the most recent recession.