Suggestions for places to find reliable welfare statistics

I’m trying to find (for a co-worker) information on the numbers of Americans on welfare
-by state
-by race
-by gender
-by education

and the budget spent by state and by the Federal government on income based public assistance programs (but mostly such things as TANF and Food Stamps).

This is one of those “it sounds like it should be easy” questions, but it’s driving me nuts. (Of course constant interruptions aren’t helping.) One problem is what terminology to use: welfare/public assistances/acf/afdc [outdated]/etc., and then welfare’s such a huge term (there are federal, state, county and private sources) so it’s taking forever.

I’m positive it’s on the Census somewhere if I can figure the magic words to use for a search ( ??? However, if you’ve ever tried to find more than the population of a certain state on census, you’ll know that it can be one of the least user friendly sites on earth (a major shame since it’s the richest source of statistical info).

Anyway, does anybody have any suggestions for where to find reliable figures on state and federal assistance by location and demographics?

Major thanks for any assistance,


Oh man, just did this yesterday. Wierd how this stuff pops up right as you do it. ::cracks knuckles::

I don’t know if you’re just trying to find poor people or if you’re trying to find people actually taking a gov’t handout. I’ll assume it’s the former, since that’s the info I pulled yesterday. Follow along now…

  1. Go to, click “American Fact Finder” on the left
  2. Go to “Data Sets” and “decennial census”
  3. You’ll want Summary files 3 and 4. I’m using 4 for now. Click “Quick Tables”
  4. Play around with the geographic selection. I’m using “Nation-US”. Click Add and Next.
  5. Click the tab that says “Keyword”. I’m using Poverty as a keyword.
  6. I selected QT-P35
  7. Select any race you want. Let’s look at Black Alone and White Alone. Add and Show Results.
  8. If you want to cut it down by region or urbanization level, just use the options above all the tables. There you’ll be able to add qualifiers like “Metro area-not central city” aka “suburbs”
  9. BAM! Buncha info. For different regions or states, back up to step 4. You can list more than one at once.

ETA: Check out the stuff in the other summary files too. It lists other things besides race and education. I once had to find the population by age and ended up piecing together “Sex by Age” for males and females.

Check out this for the info I found for the whole US.

Thanks. The Data Set #4 at least has SSI, which helps.

The Census web site has to be intentionally difficult to use in order to be that confusing.