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Does it pay to not work? In these states it might

Updated: Jul 21, 2023


A new study is proving that, depending on where you live, government benefits make it pay not to work.


The federal government and most states offer various safety-net programs that can provide health benefits and cash assistance.


  • In 24 states, unemployment benefits and ACA subsidies for a family of four with both parents not working are the annualized equivalent of at least the national median household income.

  • In 5 states, those two programs provide the same family with both parents not working the annualized equivalent of at least the national median household income and benefits.

  • In 14 states, unemployment benefits and ACA subsidies are the equivalent to a head of household earning $80,000 in salary, plus health insurance benefits.

The remarkable data shows three states where the "earned income equivalent" for a family of four exceeds $100,000. Washington ties for the highest in the country - with benefits that reach $28 per hour. Montana is 8th highest - at $79,963 worth of benefits for a family of four, and an average hourly wage of $20.


Study authors conclude "those extra benefits had a highly negative effect on employment, particularly in the states with the highest benefits."


In Idaho and Wyoming the numbers are a bit more reasonable.


















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