15 States Most Dependent on the Federal Government

The Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument in Washington D.C

Some states inherently need more support from the federal government. | iStock.com/Sean Pavone

Americans strive to be self-sufficient. It’s an ideal many people take great care to achieve and pride in attaining. It isn’t easy, though, and there are many factors at play. It’s not simply a calculation of who has the most money or best skill set — though that plays a part. Resources simply aren’t always distributed equally. And even if you look at which states are the richest or poorest, you’re not getting a complete picture.

This is part of the reason why the true genius of America’s political organization lies partially within the way the states and federal government form a cohesive bond. Essentially, the states act as individual laboratories, all separate and able to take self-direction and action, yet all tied together under a unified central government.

Residents in each city, county, and state are free to elect their own representatives, whether to local governmental bodies or federal ones. In this way, we are all able to get a glimpse into how competing ideologies or methodologies for governance work for different groups of people in different situations. And we can cherry pick from a variety of different perspectives.

As a result, each state has a certain amount of natural competition with its counterparts. For example, states compete with each other in order to attract businesses and investment dollars or to attract students to their universities. However, given the major demographic, economic, political, and geographical differences among states, some carry unique burdens while others have advantages.

Border states, for example, are much more concerned with immigration policies than central states are, and Gulf Coast states are much more concerned with the health and viability of the Gulf of Mexico than those located in the Northeast, which might be more concerned about political tensions with Europe and Canada.

Due to these differences, states depend on support from the federal government to vastly different degrees. WalletHub has released its annual study, looking at federal dependency and digging into data to find out which states lean the most on Uncle Sam for support. The methodology is complex.

Let’s take a quick look at the 15 states that rely most on the federal government.

15. Oregon

Oregon kicks off our list. As you’ll see as you work your way down the list, most of the states constituting the top 15 have several things in common. Notably, many of them are border states or have a large coastline. And several are in the western part of the country, where the federal government controls huge amounts of land. Both of those require significant federal spending, which explains Oregon’s appearance on our list.

The next state has a little of everything, including a heavy reliance on the government …

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