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TANF "Leavers", Applicants, and Caseload Studies: Food Stamps



The Food Stamp Program is the largest food assistance program in the country, reaching more poor individuals and families over the course of a year than TANF or any other public assistance program.  Financial eligibility limits, set by the Federal government, are higher than the eligibility limits for TANF in most states.  As a consequence, almost all families receiving cash assistance under TANF also receive food stamp benefits.  Moreover, many families that leave the TANF program remain eligible for food stamp benefits, particularly if their income remains below the Federal poverty threshold.

The ASPE-funded studies generally track food stamp participation rates of families leaving or diverted from welfare by linking TANF administrative records with food stamp administrative data.  This tracking task is simplified by the fact that both programs are often administered by the same state or local agency, with an integrated database.

Most studies are supplementing the information gathered through administrative data linkages with survey questions that ask former recipients about their food stamp experiences.  In addition to questions about household participation in the Food Stamp Program, many of the surveys ask about reasons for non-participation and knowledge about eligibility.

Measurement issues can contribute to differences in Food Stamp Program participation rates across the various studies.  Rates based on administrative data, for example, can be measured by month or by quarter.  Quarterly measures are likely to result in higher participation rates because of the longer time period for observing benefit receipt.  Likewise, survey questions that ask about food stamp receipt over the last six months are likely to result in higher participation measures than questions that ask about food stamp receipt last month.

Policy differences also contribute to variations in food stamp participation rates across the various studies.  In a state with high TANF income limits and maximum benefits, for example, families who leave welfare because their income exceeds the TANF limits may also find themselves ineligible for food stamps.  Local differences in food stamp administrative procedures and outreach policies also may contribute to differences in program participation rates.


See also:  information on food stamps in each grantee's reports.

Survey Questions and Administrative Data Measures