Entitlements are federal government programs that require payments to any individuals or organizations eligible to receive benefits defined by law. There are many different types of entitlements, though most of the entitlement expenditures of the federal government are distributed to the most vulnerable individuals in society--the poor, disabled, and elderly. Consequently, in addition to providing a legal right to payments for eligible beneficiaries, many entitlements carry a moral obligation to those in need. Moreover, some of the most costly entitlement programs, such as social security and Medicare, are supported in public opinion polls by large majorities of Americans and are bolstered by powerful interest groups.

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Copyright © 2009 Infobase Publishing. This chapter first appeared in Encyclopedia of American Government and Civics.

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