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Data Dispels Shrinking Welfare State Myth

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Data Dispels Shrinking Welfare State Myth

October 6, 2021

Democrats and Congress are debating how much to expand the welfare state. One argument being made is that the welfare state has been shrinking and we must restore it to historical levels. But this does not square with the data. The figure below is welfare and social spending per capita (at the state and federal level). It has been increasing over time, with blips up during recessions. The data does not include 2020, where spending spiked to historic levels. But even without the last year, it is simply not true the welfare state has shrunk since the 1970s, it only grew. 

Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data

Allison Schrager is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow her on Twitter here.

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