Texas has one of the nation's lowest rates of people on welfare, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. It says 1.8 percent of Texas households received benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program in 2012.
Only Wyoming (1.7 percent), South Carolina (1.6 percent), North Dakota (1.5 percent) and Louisiana (1.5 percent) had lower welfare rates than Texas. The United States average is 2.9 percent. The tally did not include food stamps or Social Security benefits.
"I think that these numbers are good thing, because it shows that Texas's healthy economy is really a pathway to prosperity for more people, not more government handouts," says Chuck DeVore, vice president for policy at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.
"Texas has created a lot of jobs and as a result, less people need to resort to welfare," he says.
But some advocates say fewer people are on welfare in Texas because eligibility requirements are difficult to meet and benefits are minimal.
"It's extremely limited," says Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities. Most Texas households on welfare received an average monthly check of $171 in July.
"I think it still represents a vital lifeline to some really struggling families who really deserve help," she says. "For example, grandparents who are raising grandchildren [or] a family that has recently escaped a domestic violence situation."
The Census Bureau's review of American Community Survey data revealed that 160,952 Texas households received TANF benefits in 2012. It also says about 4.5 million Texans were living in poverty that year.