Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 1997. Economic Security Risk Factor 5. Events Associated with the Beginning and Ending of a Poverty Episode

10/01/1997

Events that trigger the beginning or ending of a poverty episode indicate an increased or decreased likelihood of future dependence.

Table ECON 5a. Percent of First Poverty Episode Beginnings Associated with Specific Events

  Spell Began
1973 - 1979
Spell Began
1980 - 1985
Spell Began
1986 - 1991

First birth to an unmarried, non-cohabitating mother

4.2 5.8 7.3
First birth to other circumstances

2.3

4.5

2.3

Second (or higher order) birth 9.2 10.2 17.9
Divorce/separation 10.9 16.2 14.6
Mother's work hours decreased by more than 500 hours 12.5 21.4 28.6
Other adults' work hours decreased by more than 500 hours, but no change in family structure 29.0 27.6 27.7
Other adults' work hours decreased by more than 500 hours, and a change in family structure 24.6 22.9 16.3
Householder acquired work limitation 13.9 17.2 23.7
Other transfer income dropped by $1,000 or more (in 1996$) 5.9 3.5 2.9
Changed state of residence 7.5 10.0 8.0

Note: Events are defined to be neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive. Work limitation is defined as a self-reported physical or nervous condition that limits the type of work or the amount of work the respondent can do.

Source: Unpublished data from the PSID, 1968 - 1992.

  • Second or higher order births were more often associated with the beginning of first poverty episodes than first births. This was especially true for spells beginning between 1986 and 1991, during which time 18 percent of first poverty episodes were associated with second or higher level births.
  • The percentages of first poverty spell beginnings associated with decreases in mothers' work hours rose dramatically over time, from 13 percent in the earliest period to 29 percent in the most recent period.
  • The percentages of first poverty episodes associated with the householder acquiring a work limitation increased over time to nearly one-quarter of all first spells beginning between 1986 and 1991.

Table ECON 5b. Percent of First Poverty Episode Endings Associated with Specific Events

  Spell Ended
1973 - 1979
Spell Ended
1980 - 1985
Spell Ended
1986 - 1991
Mother married or acquired cohabitor 14.2 14.0 11.5
Children under 18 no longer present 2.0 1.3 4.3
Mother's work hours increased by more than 500 hours 19.8 22.5 21.1
Other adults' work hours increased by more than 500 hours, but no change in family structure 23.7 29.5 22.5
Other adults' work hours increased by more than 500 hours, and a change in family structure 12.1 8.5 8.1
Householder no longer reports work limitation 14.3 19.1 20.1
Other transfer income increased by $1,000 or more (in 1996$) 4.2 5.3 3.8
Changed state of residence 8.9 14.0 9.5

Note: Events are defined to be neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive. Work limitation is defined as a self-reported physical or nervous condition that limits the type of work or the amount of work the respondent can do.

Source: Unpublished data from the PSID, 1968 - 1992.

  • While the percentages of poverty episode endings associated with increases in mothers' work hours remained relatively stable across the three time periods (around 21 percent), the percentage of poverty spell endings associated with marriage or cohabitation decreased somewhat in the more recent time period (from 14 to 12 percent).
  • The percentages of poverty spell endings associated with increases in transfer income remained relatively stable over the three time periods (around 4 to 5 percent).
  • The percentages of spell endings associated with a householder no longer reporting a work limitation increased between the first two time periods and remained stable in the last time period.