Nation

The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: working-class whites

Working-class white people are the biggest beneficiaries of federal poverty-reduction programs, even though black and Hispanic people have substantially higher rates of poverty, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.

Government assistance and tax credits lifted 6.2 million working-class whites out of poverty in 2014, more than any other racial or ethnic demographic. Half of all working-age adults without college degrees lifted out of poverty by safety-net programs are white; nearly a quarter are black and a fifth are Hispanic.

The result does not simply reflect the fact that there are more white people in the country. The percentage of otherwise poor whites lifted from poverty by government safety-net programs is higher, at 44 percent, compared with 35 percent of otherwise poor minorities, the study said.

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Among working-class minorities, blacks also benefit significantly from government programs, with 43 percent of otherwise poor blacks being lifted from poverty by the safety net. Only 28 percent of otherwise poor Hispanics were lifted from poverty by these programs.

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‘‘There is a perception out there that the safety net is only for minorities. While it’s very important to minorities because they have higher poverty rates and face barriers that lead to lower earnings, it’s also quite important to whites, particularly the white working class,’’ said Isaac Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the report’s authors.

The center analyzed working-age, non-college educated beneficiaries of more than a dozen government benefits, including food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies, tax credits, home energy assistance, school lunch programs, and Social Security.