Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2001 . Indicator 11: Events Associated with the Beginning and Ending of Program Spells

03/01/2001

Table IND 11a. Percentage of First AFDC Spell Beginnings Associated with Specific Events: Selected Periods

 

Spell Began
1973-1979

Spell Began
1980-1985

Spell Began
1986-1991

First birth to an unmarried, non-cohabiting mother

27.9

20.9

22.2

First birth to a married and/or cohabiting mother

13.3

17.4

11.3

Second (or higher order) birth

19.9

18.2

15.2

Divorce/separation

19.7

28.1

17.3

Mother's work hours decreased by >500 hours per year

26.3

18.8

26.2

Other adults' work hours decreased by >500 hours, but no change in family structure

34.8

27.9

21.6

Other adults' work hours decreased by >500 hours, and a change in family structure

4.7

7.9

11.4

Householder acquired work limitation

18.1

15.6

23.5

Other transfer income dropped by >$1,000 (in 1996$)

4.5

6.5

4.1

Changed state of residence 4.5 10.6 5.4

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Source:  Unpublished data from the PSID, 1974–1992.


  • Between 1986 and 1991, the most common events associated with the beginnings of a first AFDC spell were work-related: a decrease in mother’s work hours (26 percent), a decrease in work hours of another adult (22 percent), and acquisition of a work limitation (24 percent).
  • The percentage of first AFDC episode beginnings associated with a householder acquiring a work limitation was higher for spells that began between 1986 and 1991 (24 percent) than for spells that began between 1973 and 1979 (16 percent) or 1980 to 1985 (18 percent).

  • Between 1973 and 1979, first births to an unmarried, non-cohabiting mother were associated with 28 percent of first AFDC episodes.  In contrast, such births were associated with 21 percent of first spells beginning between 1980 and 1985, and 22 percent of spells beginning between 1986 and 1991.

Table IND 11b. Percentage of First AFDC Spell Endings Associated with Specific Events: Selected Periods

 

Spell Ended
1973-1979

Spell Ended
1980-1985

Spell Ended
1986-1991

Mother married or acquired cohabitor

16.1

17.1

21.7

Children under 18 no longer present

4.4

4.1

4.8

Mother's work hours increased by more than 500 hours per year

15.4

25.0

27.1

Other adults' work hours increased by more than 500 hours, but no change in family structure

21.8

16.8

16.7

Other adults' work hours increased by more than 500 hours, and a change in family structure

6.5

10.3

5.8

Householder no longer reports work limitation

13.0

19.2

15.8

Other transfer income increased by $1,000 or more (in 1996$)

5.0

5.5

5.8

Changed state of residence

5.9

11.0

5.9

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, 1974-1992.


  • During the 1986 to 1991 time period, over one-fourth (27 percent) of first AFDC spell endings were associated with increases in mother’s work hours.  The corresponding percentage was smaller for spells ending between 1973 and 1979 (15 percent).
  • In the period between 1973 and 1979, a greater percentage of spell endings was associated with an increase in work hours for other adults (22 percent) as compared to mothers (15 percent).  In the more recent time period (1986 to 1991), a greater percentage of spell endings was associated with an increase in mother’s work hours (27 percent) compared to other adults (17 percent).

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