Squashing The ‘Welfare Queen’ Myth: New Study Finds Food Stamp Recipients Live Frugal Lives

December 19, 2013  |  

As conservatives use anecdotes to paint food stamp recipients as lobster-eating, King Crab-buying welfare queens, new research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) assures us that families on federal aid, as we already know, live pretty frugal lives.

Annually, food stamp recipients spend $30,582 — this is less than half of what their non-welfare counterparts spend ($66,525). The study also finds that families that receive federal aid spend 33 percent less on food, 50 percent as much on housing, and 60 percent less on fun outings and entertainment.

It was more than a month ago, on Nov. 1, that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) saw $5 billion cuts in the safety net program.

To put it in perspective, a family of four loses $36 a month in food assistance, according to PBS. This is a drop from $668 to $632 a month — a loss of cash that many families can’t afford to lose. Still, on top of these cuts, Republicans are seeking to yank $39 billion from SNAP over the next 10 years.

In defense of furthering cuts on food stamps, Republicans have used anecdotes concerning one person buying gourmet meals and somehow hypnotized their constituents into believing that all SNAP recipients live too much of a lavish life:

“He looks at the King Crab legs [being bought by a person with food stamps] and looks at his ground meat and realizes because he does pay income tax, he doesn’t get more back than he pays in,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) explains about a man in a grocery store. “He is actually helping pay for the King Crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself.”

Back in September, Fox News covered Jason Greenslate, an unemployed Southern California surfer. “This is a food stamp recipient,” the Fox News voice-over said. Greenslate, who gets $200 per month, is shown basking on the beach and buying lobster. “He gets by with a little help from you, the taxpayer,” the voice-over adds menacingly.

While the right attempts to portray Greenslate, a lazy 29-year-old, as the face of America’s food stamp recipients, evidence from the BLS data clearly paints us a different picture.

“There were, on average, 3.7 people in each family on public assistance.” So [money spent on] food comes out to about $34 per person, per week,” The Atlantic says. “Not exactly a shellfish budget.”

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