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How Many People Participate in the Social Safety Net?

Publication Date
Suzanne Macartney and Robin Ghertner

Social safety net programs provide different types of support to people facing economic hardship. This data point presents estimates of overall participation in the social safety net in 2019, the latest year of available data and presents rates of participation in multiple programs.

Key Points:

  • In 2019, 99.1 million people participated in one of the 10 programs discussed in this brief, representing 30 percent of the U.S. population.
  • More than one in four working-age adults (27 percent) and nearly one of every two children (49 percent) participated in a safety net program.
  • One in six people (16 percent) and one in three children (33 percent) participated in multiple safety net programs.
  • Among beneficiaries, 54 percent of people participated in multiple programs including two out of three children (67 percent). Among people in the United States who received a benefit from two or more programs, most were children or older adults (56 percent).

*This content is in the process of Section 508 review. If you need immediate assistance accessing this content, please submit a request to Suzanne Macartney, Content will be updated pending the outcome of the Section 508 review.

Available Reports:

Product Type
ASPE Data Point
Low-Income Populations
Location- & Geography-Based Data
National Data
Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) | Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) | Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) | Medicaid | Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) | Supplemental Security Income (SSI) | Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) | Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)