The 10 States That Are Doing Most To Spread The Wealth

Income Inequality 99% Prtest Occupy Wall Street

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The Occupy movement has brought economic inequality to the headlines.Occupy protesters around the country have labelled themselves the 99%, in contrast to the wealthiest 1%.

While this has captured the public’s attention, differences in wealth have always existed, and states have tried to level the playing field by redistributing money through education spending, unemployment benefits, health care, welfare, and other means.

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24/7 Wall St. examined government spending by state in a number of categories to identify those that give the most and least in money and benefits to their residents.

Our analysis has found that states that provide the most services and benefits have high income inequality.

In order to finance these programs, the states that offer the most to their residents also have among the highest tax burdens in the country.

While all income levels benefit from government assistance, the poor and the dispossessed benefit the most, in the form of welfare, medicare, and unemployment insurance.

Tax burden refers to the average amount a person pays in taxes as a percentage of his or her income. The Tax Foundation calculates each state’s tax burden by taking the total amount paid by the state’s residents in taxes, and dividing it by the total income of the state’s residents.

Eight of the 10 states that are most generous are among the top fifteen states with the highest tax burdens. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are all included on the list and also fill the top three slots for largest tax burdens in the country.

Income inequality measures how evenly wealth is distributed among residents of an area. Income inequality is high when a few people make a great deal and many make far less. Six of the 10 states that are most generous are in the top 15 states for highest rates of income inequality. The three states with the greatest inequality in the country — New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — are among the most generous. Many of the states giving the least, such as Idaho and Indiana, fall on the other end of the spectrum for income inequality.

It also happens that the states that spend the most on their residents have particularly high costs of living. While it may be that state governments simply give more because costs are higher, the difference in spending does reflect the entire situation. In many cases the most generous states also provide benefits for longer periods of time, such as unemployment and cash assistance for needy families. Nine of the 10 states on the list are within the top 15 for highest costs of living. and seven of the 10 least giving states are within the bottom 15 for cost of living.

24/7 Wall St. used the per cent of former weekly wages covered by state unemployment insurance to rank unemployment benefits by state, using data from The National Employment Law Project. The amount each state spends on education per student, including teacher salaries, as well as data on income inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, comes from the Census Bureau.

Medicaid spending per recipient is from The Urban Institute and Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Medicare spending per recipient is from the centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 24/7 ranked the average amount each state employee receives in pension benefits per year using data from the centre for Retirement Research at Boston College on defined benefit plans.

Data on the average number of months of benefits received and the average monthly amount of cash assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a welfare program that provides cash assistance to American families with dependent children, was obtained from the Administration for Children and Families. Cost of living data is from the Missouri Economic Research and Information centre.

This post originally appeared at 24/7 Wall St.

10. California

  • Average pension benefits: $24,398 (8th highest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $9,657 (22nd lowest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $3,367 (the lowest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 30.3% (11th lowest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 42.4 (7th highest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $537 (2nd highest)

California provides a large amount of cash assistance to those in need. Recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in the state receive $537 per month -- the second largest amount in the country -- and for 42.4 months -- the 7th most months. California residents have one of the highest tax burdens in the country. The state also has the seventh highest level of income inequality.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

9. Minnesota

  • Average pension benefits: $16,304 (17th lowest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $11,098 (15th highest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $8,435 (2nd highest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 40.7% (12th highest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 40 (10th highest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $348 (19th most)

As of 2008, Medicaid enrollees in Minnesota received the second largest amount in benefits in the country. However, the state has cut outlay to the program as stated in the 2012-2013 budget, meaning the state's ranking in this category may soon change. Residents of the state have to pay a very large amount in taxes. The average citizen of Minnesota pays 10.3% of their income in state and local taxes, which is the seventh largest amount in the country.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

8. Alaska

7. Connecticut

  • Average pension benefits: $26,622 (4th highest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $14,531 (6th highest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $7,442 (7th highest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 29.2% (8th lowest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 26.7 (17th lowest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $413 (11th highest)

Connecticut has the highest per capita income in the country. Its residents also pay more than $5,000 a year on average in state and local taxes -- the highest amount in the U.S. As a result, residents have the third highest tax burden in the country. In return, Connecticuters receive above average benefits. State employees who receive their pensions through the Connecticut State Employees Retirement System have the fourth highest average pension benefits. Students have the sixth highest amount spent on them. The state also has the fourth highest cost of living, and the second highest rate of income inequality.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

6. Hawaii

  • Average pension benefits: $22,680 (10th highest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $12,400 (11th highest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $5,261 (21st lowest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 54.3% (the highest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 46.7 (the highest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $518 (3rd highest)

Hawaii, on average, covers 54.3% of workers' previous weekly wages through unemployment benefits. This is the highest rate in the country. The state also provides, on average, the greatest number of months of TANF benefits, and the third highest average amount of cash assistance. Part of the reason for this is that Hawaii has -- by a substantial margin -- the highest cost of living in the country. The state also receives one of the largest amounts of federal funding per capita in the country. This is partly due to defence, but also because of its high rates of health and human services payments.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

5. Pennsylvania

  • Average pension benefits: $20,662 (15th highest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $12,512 (10th highest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $6,937 (11th highest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 39.4% (17th highest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 42 (8th highest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $322 (25th highest)

Pennsylvania ranks high in a number of categories, but is not especially exceptional in any. It spends a large amount on education, health care, public pensions, and welfare. As a result, it has the tenth highest tax burden in the country, with residents spending an average of 10.1% of their income in state and local taxes.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

4. New York

  • Average pension benefits: $17,459 (19th lowest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $18,126 (the highest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $9,057 (the highest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 26.9% (2nd lowest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 43.9 (4th highest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $499 (6th highest)

New York spends more than $18,100 per student on education each year, which is more than any other state in the nation. Approximately $12,500 of this is spent on teacher salaries and benefits alone. The state's medicaid payments per beneficiary of $9,057 is the largest in the country, and more than $600 than the state that spends the second most. New York has the absolute highest rate of income inequality in the country. It also has the second largest state and local tax burden, and the third highest cost of living.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

3. New Jersey

  • Average pension benefits: $16,817 (18th lowest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $16,271 (2nd highest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $7,985 (4th highest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 37.2% (25th highest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 40.4 (9th highest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $325 (21st highest)

New Jersey residents have access to exceptional amounts of health care benefits. Medicaid beneficiaries receive the fourth largest amount in the country. And those who receive medicare benefits, which is solely the fiscal responsibility of the federal government, receive the third largest amount. New Jersey also spends the second largest amount on education on a per student basis. Only 4% of New Jersey's education budget derives from the federal government, with revenues split evenly between state and local governments. Unfortunately, New Jersey residents possess the largest tax burden in the country -- nearly twice that of Alaska.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

2. Massachusetts

  • Average pension benefits: $25,596 (5th highest)
  • Total per pupil spending: $14,118 (7th highest)
  • Medicaid payments per beneficiary: $7,020 (10th highest)
  • Pct. of weekly wages covered by unemployment benefits: 36.1% (22nd lowest)
  • No. of months of TANF received: 36.2 (16th highest)
  • Avg. TANF cash assistance per month: $500 (5th highest)

Massachusetts has the third highest rate of income inequality in country. However, the states offers a number of above average benefits to address this issue. The state provides the fifth highest monthly amount in cash assistance for families enrolled in TANF in the country. The state also spends the seventh greatest amount on education, resulting in what many consider to be one of the best K-12 education systems in the country. Additionally, residents covered under the Massachusetts State Employees Retirement System receive the fifth highest amount in average benefits.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

1. Rhode Island

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