A record 18.3% of the nation's total personal income was a payment from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs in 2010. Wages accounted for the lowest share of income 51.0% since the government began keeping track in 1929.
The income data show how fragile and government-dependent the recovery is after a recession that officially ended in June 2009.
The wage decline has continued this year. Wages slipped to another historic low of 50.5% of personal income in February. Another government effort the Social Security payroll tax cut has lifted income in 2011. The temporary tax cut puts more money in workers' pockets and counts as an income boost, even when wages stay the same.
STORY: New Yorkers lead pack in government benefits
MORE: State rankings for assistance
From 1980 to 2000, government aid was roughly constant at 12.5%. The sharp increase since then especially since the start of 2008 reflects several changes: the expansion of health care and federal programs generally, the aging population and lingering economic problems.

Americans depend more on federal aid than ever - USATODAY.com