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In FY 2016 total US government spending on welfare — federal, state, and local — was “guesstimated” to be $1,032 billion, including $591 billion for Medicaid, and $467 billion in other welfare.
In 1902 governments in the United States spent very little on relief of the poor, including less than 0.2 percent of GDP on relief and 0.25 percent of GDP on health care services. In the early 21st century, governments spend about 2 to 3 percent of GDP on welfare programs. (Health care for the poor, Medicaid, is described separately below.)
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ENTITLEMENT SPENDING history.
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Spending data is from official government sources.
Detailed table of spending data sources here.
Federal spending data begins in 1792.
State and local spending data begins in 1820.
State and local spending data for individual states begins in 1957.
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> US GDP CY16
Source: CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook .