Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Benefits for state residents land Michigan in top ten

By SARA QAMAR

Capital News Service

LANSING — State residents receive $8,250 on average per person from government benefits, putting Michigan among the top 10 states, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau.

            The number includes a variety of local, state and federal benefits, including Medicare, Medicaid, social security, unemployment insurance benefits and college scholarships and loans.

            The average is calculated per resident, not just people who use a program.

            Michigan State University Economics Professor Charles Ballard estimates the amount is weighted more towards elderly people, with Medicare, Medicaid and social security accounting for the majority of the money.

            That pushes Michigan higher up in the rankings to ninth. In contrast, Utah, which received the lowest ranking, has a younger population, he said.

“Our population has aged more than others. We’ve had a shrinking population,” he said.

AARP Michigan’s communications director Mark Hornbeck said due to issues facing the state’s population, its residents should not receive less federal aid.

“In terms of social security, Medicaid and Medicare, Michigan doesn’t receive any more than its fair share,” he said.

In terms of state benefits, the “degree of generosity towards residents makes an effect,” he said.

“What you’ve got is a complicated set of factors. If you looked at federal versus state and local, I think you’d find a lot of variation,” he said.

Another large component of the average is unemployment insurance benefits because in 2010, the state had a high unemployment rate.

In 2000, state residents received $4,850 per capita. That was “a peak year for our economy, so we had relatively less people receiving unemployment benefits,” Hornbeck said.

“Many of the programs don’t have a huge effect on people’s work effort,” he said.

For example, some injured people don’t recover enough to return to their jobs, he said.

“For an awful lot of people in that situation, the alternative would be poverty on top of your injury. I certainly wouldn’t claim all government transfer programs work.”

But, he continued “on balance, I think the country works better with them than without them.”

            

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