This introductory chapter provides an overview of the specific summary measures of welfare dependence proposed by the Advisory Board. It also discusses summary measures of poverty, following the Board’s recommendation that dependence measures not be assessed in isolation from measures of deprivation. Analysis of both measures is important because changes in dependence measures could result either from increases in work activity and other factors that would raise family incomes, or from sanctions or other changes in welfare programs that would reduce welfare program participation but might not improve the material circumstances of these families. The introduction concludes with a discussion of data sources used for the report.
Chapter II of the report, Indicators of Dependence, presents a dozen indicators of welfare dependence and recipiency. These indicators include dependency measures based on total income from all three programs — AFDC/TANF, SSI, and food stamps, as well as measures of recipiency for each of the three programs considered separately. The labor force participation among families receiving welfare and multiple receipt across programs are also shown. The second half of the chapter also includes longitudinal data on transitions on and off welfare programs and spells of dependency and recipiency.
Chapter III, Predictors and Risk Factors Associated with Welfare Receipt, focuses on predictors of welfare dependence — risk factors believed to be associated with welfare receipt in some way. These predictors are shown in three different groups:
- Economic security — including various measures of poverty, receipt of child support, food insecurity, and health insurance coverage — is important in predicting dependence in the sense that families with fewer economic resources are more likely to rely on welfare programs for their support.
- Measures of the work status and barriers to employment of adult family members also are critical, because families must generally receive an adequate income from employment in order to avoid dependence without severe deprivation.
- Finally, data on non-marital births are important since history has shown that a high proportion of long-term welfare recipients became parents outside of marriage, frequently as teen parents.
Additional data are presented in four appendices. Appendix A provides basic program data on each of the main welfare programs and their recipients; Appendix B shows how dependency is affected by the inclusion of benefits from the SSI program; Appendix C includes additional data on non-marital childbearing; and Appendix D provides more information about the change in data sources in this 2001 report. The main welfare programs included in Appendix A are:
- The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the largest cash assistance program, provided monthly cash benefits to families with children, until its replacement by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is run directly by the states. Data on the AFDC and TANF programs are provided in Appendix A, with AFDC data provided from 1977 through June 1997, and TANF data from July 1997 through 1999, or when available, 2000.
- The Food Stamp Program provides monthly food stamp coupons to all individuals, whether they are living in families or alone, provided their income and assets are below thresholds set in Federal law. It reaches more poor people over the course of a year than any other means-tested public assistance program. Appendix A provides historical data from 1970 to 1999, or when available, 2000.
- The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash payments to elderly, blind, or disabled individuals or couples whose income and assets are below levels set in Federal law. Though the majority of recipients are adults, disabled children also are eligible. Historical data from 1974 through 1999 are provided in Appendix A.