Who are the “47 percent?” Is this really the number of Americans receiving government benefits or simply a fabrication by overzealous politicians?

The truth is staggering.

In his new book, A Nation of Takers, author Nicholas Eberstadt pulls 50 years of data to detail the explosive growth in entitlements. The subject couldn’t be timelier.  A demographer at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Eberstadt discloses how spending has mushroomed from one-third of government outlays to two-thirds today. He goes on to assert that having nearly half of families receiving benefits (even higher than Governor Romney’s claim) has long-term detrimental effects on our national character.

The AEI published a chart from his book clarifying reality from fiction about who receives government benefits, means testing, which political party has most aggressively expanded the size and scope of entitlements, and more.  A few of the eye-opening facts include:

  • In 2010, over 34 percent of American households received means-tested benefits—households which included nearly half of America’s children. Yet the poverty rate was only 15.1 percent.
  • In 1983, fewer than 30 percent of households received one or more government benefits. By 2011, this number had skyrocketed to 49 percent.
  • The growth in entitlement spending is a bipartisan phenomenon. In fact, for the last half-century, entitlement spending has grown faster under Republican presidents than under Democratic presidents.

His conclusion is clear: Our growing culture of dependency is impairing personal responsibility, initiative and community involvement. To read more and pre-order copies of A Nation of Takers, please visit the AEI website.