By one measure, Wisconsin has the 16th most-generous social safety net, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. At $16,241 per person, average benefits in Wisconsin from 10 federal and/or state programs were higher than in Michigan ($12,812) and Illinois ($13,103), but lower than in Iowa ($17,760) and Minnesota ($21,450). Average benefits were highest in Vermont ($26,100) and lowest in Georgia ($10,045).
The research also found that states where low-income households comprised a larger portion of the total population had benefits that were less generous than state’s with fewer such households. This was an unexpected finding. It could be that poorer states do not have the tax base to provide the benefits richer states can provide. Or, as the author stated, it may be that “richer states are more willing to pay for the benefits that safety nets provide.”
The study examined spending by state on 10 programs: Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Earned income tax credits, Unemployment insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, Worker’s compensation, and Temporary disability insurance. Because eligibility varies by program, “eligible” population was defined as the non-elderly population living in households with income in the bottom 25% of all households (approximately $14,000 or less).