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In 2016, the U.S. spent $189.1 billion on benefits for low income families, and served approximately 44.1 million individuals. Empirical evidence suggests that the higher an individual’s income, the better their health status—and there is no threshold where higher income does not equal better health. Individuals with lower incomes are found to have increased levels of morbidity, mortality, and risk-taking behaviors.

Also important to an individual’s health status are the resources available in their community. For example, when individuals do not have access to transportation, healthy food options, or health care services within their community, health status declines. Poverty tends to limits access to these social determinants of health. Psychosocial effects also play a role in an individual’s health. Individuals with low-income are more likely to have experienced traumatic life events, experience neighborhood violence and unrest, and experience stress. In order to address these health, educational, and living needs, the U.S. federal government offers benefits for low income families through the following programs:

  1. Supplement Security Income (SSI): provides cash benefits to aged, blind, and disabled individuals who meet income and asset requirements
  2. Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF): provides cash and non-cash benefits for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children
  3. Earned Income Tax Credits: a tax refund provided to low-income families who file a tax return
  4. Pell Grants: provide grant funds to low-income students receiving an undergraduate degree

This report examines the differences between available income assistance programs; total spending on the programs; the average benefit, number of beneficiaries, and trends in spending; and participation. These government-funded benefits for low income families help over 44 million people in the U.S.

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