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States with Highest Tax Burden but Lowest Benefits


[The Department of Data, in its first anniversary celebrations, presents new data sourced from its brilliant and sometimes slightly unhinged readers. Over the past year, they have received nearly 2,000 legitimate column ideas and engaged with hundreds more through callouts and follow-ups. The Department has been awestruck by the collective genius of its readers.

Analyzing the data, it was found that a significant number of readers preferred to be addressed as “Dr.,” which is seven times higher than the rate of doctorates in the adult population. The District of Columbia emerged as the top source of submissions, followed by the Seattle area. However, submissions were received from every state in the nation, territories, and even from American nomads living in recreational vehicles.

The submissions were diverse and creative, ranging from a dissertation-scale rumination on maglev trains to a simple inquiry about divorced individuals aged 65+. One burning question among readers was which states contribute the most to the federal budget in taxes and which receive the most benefits. To answer this, the Department reached out to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which has been studying this topic since the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan addressed it in the 1970s.

The institute has a comprehensive data collection process, gathering information on various federal programs and benefits allocated to each state. The data shows that the amount a state contributes to the federal government is strongly correlated with its income level and factors related to income. There is also a clear partisan divide, with states that voted for President Biden contributing more than states that voted for former President Donald Trump.

On the expenditures side, federal benefits distribution does not solely depend on income or population. The majority of federal grants go to places needing Medicaid funding or infrastructure development. Federal contracts are awarded to states with more federal contractors, such as Virginia, while federal wages are distributed to states with larger federal workforces.

Interestingly, Virginia emerges as the state receiving the largest per capita share of federal funding, followed by Alaska and Maryland. Factors such as working-age adults with disabilities, lower education rates, higher poverty rates, and employment in certain industries play a role in determining a state’s federal benefits.

When examining the return on investment, the political divide becomes apparent again. States that received the most money back per dollar they paid into the system tended to vote for Trump, while states that received the least money back mostly voted for Biden.

Overall, the data provides valuable insights into the relationship between states and the federal government in terms of taxes and benefits. The Department of Data will continue to explore these findings and address the burning questions of its readers.


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