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In FY 2018 total US government spending on welfare — federal, state, and local — was “guesstimated” to be $1,091 billion, including $642 billion for Medicaid, and $449 billion in other welfare.

Welfare Spending Analysis

This page shows the current trends in welfare spending. There are also charts on welfare spending history. See here for a general history of entitlement spending.

Recent Welfare Spending

Chart S.31t: Recent Welfare Spending

Chart S.32t: Recent Welfare Spending as Pct GDP

Welfare spending was increasing modestly in the mid 2000s with Medicaid (health care) and Other Welfare (cash, food, unemployment, housing) each at about $300 billion. But the Great Recession created a huge spike in Other Welfare, rising to about $700 billion in 2010. In the recovery, Other Welfare has declined to about $450 billion. But Medicaid spending has begun to surge, presumably as part of the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act.

Viewed from a GDP perspective, overall welfare spending was level-pegging at about 5 percent of GDP in the mid 2000s. The Great Recession caused a spike in Other Welfare so that overall welfare including Medicaid peaked at over 7 percent of GDP in 2010 with Other Welfare at 4.5 percent GDP. But in the recovery since 2010 Other Welfare spending has steadily decreased to an estimated 2.3 percent GDP in 2017. Medicaid shows a steady increase in cost as a percent of GDP, and breached 3 percent of GDP in 2015.

See also Welfare Spending History.

US Welfare Spending Since 1965

Welfare spending, particularly on Medicaid, has surged since the War on Poverty of the 1960s.

Chart S.33t: Welfare Spending since 1965

Welfare was already nearly 2 percent of GDP when Medicaid, a federal and state program to deliver health care to the poor, was created as part of the War on Poverty in 1965. But while spending on Medicaid rose modestly, from 0.12 percent of GDP in 1965 to 0.5 percent of GDP by 1975, Other Welfare increased rapidly, with peaks of 2.8 percent GDP in recessionary 1971, 4.4 percent GDP in the wake of the 1974-75 recession, and 4.0 percent GDP in the 1980-82 recession.

After the 1980s recession Other Welfare declined, with a minor upward blip for the 1990-91 recession declining to 2.2 percent GDP in 2000. But Medicaid spending surged, from 0.7 percent GDP in 1988, blowing past 1 percent GDP in 1991 to peak at 1.76 percent GDP in 1995.

Other Welfare surged to 2.8 percent GDP in 2003 due to recession and then slipped back to 2.34 percent GDP in 2006. But the Great Recession caused a huge increase in Other Welfare, peaking at 4.5 percent GDP in 2010 before declining to an estimated 2.3 percent GDP in 2017.

Medicaid began a consistent year-on-year expansion starting in 2000, hitting 2 percent GDP in 2002, 2.5 percent GDP in 2009, and breached 3 percent GDP in 2015.

Suggested Video: All About Welfare

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Spending Data Sources

Spending data is from official government sources.

Gross Domestic Product data comes from US Bureau of Economic Analysis and

Detailed table of spending data sources here.

Federal spending data begins in 1792.

State and local spending data begins in 1820.

State and local spending data for individual states begins in 1957.

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Next Data Update

> US, State Pop FY17

> data update schedule.

Data Sources for 2014_2023:

Sources for 2014:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances

Sources for 2023:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

Federal Deficit, Receipts, Outlays Actuals for FY18

On October 15, 2018, the US Treasury reported in its Monthly Treasury Statement (and xls) for September that the federal deficit for FY 2018 ending September 30, 2018, was $779 billion. Here are the numbers, including total receipts, total outlays, and deficit compared with the numbers projected in the FY 2019 federal budget published in February 2018:

Federal Finances
FY 2018 Outcomes
Receipts $3,340$3,329
Deficit$833$779 now shows the new numbers for total FY 2018 total outlays and receipts on its Estimate vs. Actual page.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes "Table 4: Receipts of the United States Government, September 2018 and Other Periods." This table of receipts by source is used for to post details of federal receipt actuals for FY 2018.

This FTS report on FY 18 actuals is a problem for because this site uses Historical Table 3.2--Outlays by Function and Subfunction from the Budget of the United States as its basic source for federal subfunction outlays. But the Monthly Treasury Statement only includes "Table 9. Summary of Receipts by Source, and Outlays by Function of the U.S. Government, September 2018 and Other Periods". Subfunction amounts don't get reported until the FY20 budget in February 2019. Until then estimates actual outlays by "subfunction" for FY 2018 by factoring subfunction budgeted amounts for FY18 by the ratio between relevant actual and budgeted "function" amounts where actual outlays by subfunction cannot be gleaned from the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Final detailed FY 2018 actuals will not appear on until the FY 2020 federal budget is published in February 2019 with the actual outlays for FY 2018 in Historical Table 3.2--Outlays by Function and Subfunction.

Spend links

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