With one exception, family variables from the March CPS were used to determine receipt of public assistance of child support-eligible families (see explanation of Census definition of "family", below). Participation in five different public assistance programs was estimated:
- TANF: The variable FINC_PAW was used to determine if the child support-eligible family received any income from a cash assistance or welfare program.
- Medicaid: This was the only variable in which full family receipt was not used as the definition of coverage. The person variable MCAID was pulled out of the March questionnaire. A positive answer to this question meant that the mother was covered by Medicaid.
Next, the variable FAMCAID was constructed with data from the related subfamily. The family sequence (FH_SEQ) and family position (FF_POS) variables were used to differentiate the child from the other members of the immediate family. Finally, MCAID was used to gather the child support-eligible children covered by Medicaid whose custodial parents were not covered. The covered parents and covered children were combined into the dummy variable FAMCAID. Note that while the parents of child-only Medicaid cases are not technically required by federal statutes to cooperate with child support enforcement, many states have policies (or had policies in 1997) that encourage cooperation with the IV-D agency if any member of the family is receiving Medicaid.
- Food Stamps: The family variable F_MV_FS, denoting the total value of the family's food stamps, was pulled from the March CPS. A dummy variable, FSFLG, was then constructed, with a value of one indicating that the amount of food stamps the family received was greater than zero.
- Housing Subsidies: The family variable HOUSSUB shows that the family is receiving some value of housing subsidy, including housing assistance or public housing. This variable was used to construct the dummy HOUSFLG, with a value of one denoting that the family received some amount of housing subsidy in 1997.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI): The family variable FINC_SSI was used to determine if the child support-eligible family received any income from the SSI program in 1997.
After these variables were estimated and run against the various characteristics, they were condensed into three categories: families receiving cash benefits under the TANF program, families using other means-tested non-cash public assistance programs, and families that reported no public assistance usage during 1997. Families receiving other public assistance were defined as those families with positive responses to any of the non-cash public assistance categories but that received no income from the TANF program. Families receiving no public assistance were defined as those with negative responses to each of the five public assistance categories.