The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows us the frugal reality of life on the social safety net.

Here's a useful graph to keep handy for the next time Fox News airs a report about food stamp users buying lobster with their benefits.

This month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics compared yearly spending between families that use public assistance programs, such as food stamps and Medicaid, and families that don't. And surprise, surprise, households that rely on the safety net lead some pretty frugal lifestyles. On average, they spend $30,582 in a year, compared to $66,525 for families not on public assistance. Meanwhile, they spend a third less on food, half as much on housing, and 60 percent less on entertainment.

These figures, drawn from the 2011 Consumer Expenditure Survey, don't capture all non-cash perks some low-income families get from the government, such as healthcare coverage through Medicaid. But they give you a sense of the kind of tight finances these families deal with.

Take the food budget: There were, on average, 3.7 people in each family on public assistance (I know, that sounds weird, but bear with me). So that $6,460 spent on food comes out to about $34 per person, per week. Not exactly a shellfish budget. 

(h/t Kate Gallagher Robbins)

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    What the New Urban Anchors Owe Their Cities

    Corporations like Google and Amazon reap the spoils of winner-take-all urbanism. Here’s how they can also bear greater responsibility.

  2. A prospective buyer looks at a rendering of a new apartment complex in Seoul in 2005.
    Design

    Why Koreans Shun the Suburbs

    In cities around the world, harried urbanites look to the suburbs for more space or a nicer house for their money. But in South Korea, the city apartment is still the dream.

  3. Etiquette

    The Devil's Hair Dryer

    Hell is other people, with leaf blowers.

  4. A bollard toppled over and cracked on a city street, surrounded by wheel marks
    Transportation

    How Do You Design an Effective Bike-Lane Barrier?

    Drivers are mowing over dividers in Oakland meant to protect cyclists and pedestrians. What can be done?

  5. Design

    Octopuses Are Urbanists, Too

    Scientists were surprised to find that this smart and solitary species had built a cephalopod city. Why?