Good times. October 5, 2011, 2:31 PM ET Nearly Half of U.S. Lives in Household Receiving Government Benefit By Sara Murray Families were more dependent on government programs than ever last year. Nearly half, 48.5%, of the population lived in a household that received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2010, according to Census data. Those numbers have risen since the middle of the recession when 44.4% lived households receiving benefits in the third quarter of 2008. Click for full-size imageThe share of people relying on government benefits has reached a historic high, in large part from the deep recession and meager recovery, but also because of the expansion of government programs over the years. (See a timeline on the history of government benefits programs here.) Means-tested programs, designed to help the needy, accounted for the largest share of recipients last year. Some 34.2% of Americans lived in a household that received benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicaid (the federal-state health care program for the poor). Another 14.5% lived in homes where someone was on Medicare (the health care program for the elderly). Nearly 16% lived in households receiving Social Security. High unemployment and increased reliance on government programs has also shrunk the nationâ€™s share of taxpayers. Some 46.4% of households will pay no federal income tax this year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Thatâ€™s up from 39.9% in 2007, the year the recession began. Nearly Half of U.S. Lives in Household Receiving Government Benefit - Real Time Economics - WSJ I wish my retirement fund grew like that.