Government help

Statistics show that the percentage of households receiving some kind of government help reached an all-time high of 50 percent in 2010. What’s behind this amazing number? And will it continue to rise? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“I think there are two reasons behind the increase. One is our aging population. As more and more people especially reach age 65, they qualify for programs like Social Security, Medicare and even Medicaid will kick in for some folks. And so as the baby boomers, especially, retire, more of them are receiving this kind of government help. And that’s pushing up that percentage.

“Second big reason, of course, is the recession. As people have lost their jobs and poverty rates and unemployment rates have gone up, more people have qualified in the last few years for things like food stamps, also Medicaid, unemployment insurance, et cetera.

“n terms of the future, I think the first trend — that is, the impact of the aging population on government help — is not likely to turn around. In fact, demographers tell us we’re going to continue to be an aging society. Baby boomers are going to continue to retire. So, that part of the equation is going to continue to drive more government help in terms of the percentage of households receiving government assistance.

“Hopefully the second trend — that is, the impact of the recession on people receiving government help — hopefully that will turn around as the economy improves.”

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