In an interactive graphic and in an accompanying multimedia article, the Times examines historical and geographic trends for those benefiting from the safety net. Overall, "The share of Americans' income that comes from government benefit programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, more than doubled over the last four decades, rising from 8 percent in 1969 to 18 percent in 2009."
A fascinating interactive graphic presents historical data for several decades in the amounts of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Income Support, Veterans, and Unemployment benefits at a county-by-county level.
Authors Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff reach the surprising conclusion that, "The government safety net was created to keep Americans from abject poverty, but the poorest households no longer receive a majority of government benefits. A secondary mission has gradually become primary: maintaining the middle class from childhood through retirement."