I just learned, via Kate Harding on Twitter (who got it from Boing Boing), that about half of beneficiaries of federal benefit programs don’t realize they’ve enjoyed benefits. See table 3, here. Exact numbers: 44% of Social Security beneficiaries say they “have not used a government social program.” Ditto 43% of those who’ve gotten unemployment benefits and Pell Grants, 40% of those on Medicare, and 25% of those on Food Stamps.
The numbers are even bigger for what the author of the paper, Suzanne Mettler, calls the “submerged state”—benefits delivered via the tax code. So 60% of beneficiaries of the mortgage interest tax deduction think they’ve never benefitted from a social program, even though that’s what it is. Of course, since 60% of the benefits of that deduction go to $75,000+ households, they probably think of themselves as deserving.