Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 1997. Indicator 5. Program Spell Duration

10/01/1997

One critical aspect of dependence is how long individuals receive means-tested assistance. This indicator provides information on the length of individual spells.

Figure IND 5. Percent of All AFDC, Food Stamp and SSI Recipients with Various Spell Lengths, 1992 SIPP Panel

Figure IND 5. Percent of All AFDC, Food Stamp and SSI Recipients with Various Spell Lengths, 1992 SIPP Panel

  • Over one-quarter of AFDC (30 percent), Food Stamp (33 percent), and SSI spells (26 percent) were short spells lasting less than 4 months.
  • Over one-half of all AFDC (55 percent) and Food Stamp spells (58 percent) lasted less than one year. In contrast, only 35 percent of SSI spells ended within one year. The percentage of SSI spells that lasted 20 or more months is almost twice the percentage of AFDC and Food Stamps spells that lasted this long. As noted earlier, compared to AFDC and Food Stamps, SSI is designed to provide longer-term assistance.
  • As shown in Table IND 5, for AFDC and Food Stamp spells, non-Hispanic whites have larger percentages of short spells lasting less than 4 months and smaller percentages of longer spells lasting 20 or more months, compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.
  • Table IND 5 also shows that compared to adults age 16 to 64, children age 0 to 15 have a larger percentage of AFDC and Food Stamp spells lasting 20 or more months.

Table IND 5. Percent of All AFDC, Food Stamp and SSI Recipients with Various Spell Lengths, 1992 SIPP Panel

  Spells <4 Months Spells <12 Months Spells <20 Months Spells 20+ Months
AFDC
All Recipients 30.4 55.1 65.6 34.4
Racial Categories
Non-Hispanic White 32.1 60.0 69.3 30.7
Non-Hispanic Black 22.5 45.7 58.2 41.8
Hispanic 38.6 56.8 NA NA
Age Categories
Children Age 0 - 15 30.0 53.4 63.0 37.0
Adults Age 16 - 64 31.0 57.6 69.2 30.8
Food Stamps
All Recipients 33.4 58.3 68.5 31.5
Racial Categories
Non-Hispanic White 36.7 64.2 73.6 26.4
Non-Hispanic Black 28.0 47.8 59.7 40.3
Hispanic 31.6 54.3 65.5 34.6
Age Categories
Children Age 0 - 15 29.6 55.1 66.0 34.0
Adults Age 16 - 64 36.4 61.7 71.6 28.4
Adults Age 65 and over 21.4 31.4 NA NA
SSI
All Recipients 25.7 34.6 39.4 60.6
Racial Categories
Non-Hispanic White 27.7 38.4 NA NA
Non-Hispanic Black 19.4 23.0 NA NA
Hispanic 20.4 NA NA NA
Age Categories
Adults Age 16 - 64 26.0 35.0 40.6 59.4
Adults Age 65 and over 25.6 32.9 NA NA

Note: Spell length categories are not mutually exclusive. Spells separated by only 1 month are not considered separate spells. Due to the length of the observation period, actual spell lengths for spells that lasted more than 20 months cannot be observed. Data on SSI recipiency for children is not available.

Source: Unpublished data from the SIPP, 1992 Panel.