A majority of Americans (55%) have received government benefits from at least one of the six best-known federal entitlement programs. Among them, 32% have benefited from two or more entitlement programs over the course of their lives: 17% have been helped by two programs and 15% have received assistance from three or more.

In general, the characteristics of those who have received entitlements from multiple sources echo those of Americans who drew benefits from just one program. Recipients are more likely to be black, female, have a lower income, identify with the Democratic Party or live in a rural area.

A plurality of blacks (44%), but 33% of whites and 23% of Latinos, received entitlements from two or more of the six programs tested in the survey. About a quarter of all blacks (27%) received entitlements from three or more programs; in contrast, 14% of whites and 11% of Hispanics received help from as many government sources. (As a group, Hispanics experience similar levels of economic hardship as blacks. Their lower utilization of entitlement benefits stems in part from their relative youth and in part from the fact that some are in the country illegally and thus unable to receive benefits.)

Women are significantly more likely than men to have ever received two or more entitlements. According to the survey, about four-in-ten (38%) of all women and 26% of men got help from two or more of the six major entitlement programs.

Lower-income adults are more than three times as likely to receive entitlements from multiple programs as the more affluent (50% for those with family incomes under $30,000 vs. 14% among those making $100,000 a year or more). Read more