Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2003. Indicator 4. Rates of Participation in Means-tested Assistance Programs

03/01/2003

Figure IND 4. Participation Rates in the AFDC/TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Programs Selected Years

Figure IND 4

Source: AFDC and SSI participation rates are tabulated using TRIM3 microsimulation model, while food stamp participation rates are from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model. See Tables IND 4a, IND 4b, and IND 4c for details.

  • Whereas Indicator 3 examined participants as a percentage of the total population (recipiency rates), this indicator examines participating families or households as a percentage of the estimated eligible population (participation rates, also known as “take up” rates).
  • Slightly over half (52 percent) of the families estimated as eligible for AFDC/TANF cash assistance actually enrolled and received benefits in an average month in 2000. This rate was essentially unchanged from 1999; and it was significantly lower than earlier AFDC participation rates, which ranged from 77 percent to 86 percent between 1981 and 1996.
  • Food stamp participation rates have been very similar to AFDC/TANF participation rates in recent years. Estimated participation among eligible households has fallen from 69 percent in 1995 to 53 percent in both 1999 and 2000.
  • In contrast to the declines in AFDC/TANF and food stamp participation, the SSI participation rate rose by 14 percentage points between 1993 and 2000. In 2000, the estimated SSI participation rate was 76 percent, well above the rates for the other two programs.

Table IND 4a. Number and Percentage of Eligible Families Participating in AFDC/TANF Selected Years

Calendar Year Eligible Families (in millions) Participating Families (in millions) Participation Rate (percent)
Notes: Participation rates are estimated by an Urban Institute model (TRIM3) which uses CPS data to simulate AFDC/TANF eligibility and participation for an average month, by calendar year. There have been small changes in estimating methodology over time, due to model improvements and revisions to the CPS. Most notably, since 1994, the model has been revised to more accurately estimate SSI participation among children, and in 1997 and 1998 the model was adjusted to more accurately exclude ineligible immigrants. The numbers of eligible and participating families shown above include the territories and pregnant women without children, even though these two small groups are excluded from the TRIM model. The numbers shown here implicitly assume that participation rates for the territories and for pregnant women with no other children are the same as for all other eligibles.
Source: DHHS, Administration for Children and Families caseload tabulations, and unpublished data from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.
1981 4.8 3.8 80.2
1983 4.7 3.7 77.7
1985 4.7 3.7 79.3
1987 4.9 3.8 76.7
1988 4.8 3.7 78.4
1989 4.5 3.8 83.6
1990 4.9 4.1 82.2
1992 5.6 4.8 85.7
1993 6.1 5.0 81.7
1994 6.1 5.0 82.6
1994 (revised) 6.1 5.0 82.1
1995 5.7 4.8 84.3
1996 5.6 4.4 78.9
1997 5.5 3.7 67.5
1997 (adjusted) 5.4 3.7 69.2
1998 5.5 3.1 55.8
1999 4.9 2.6 52.3
2000 4.3 2.2 51.8
  • In 2000, an estimated 4.3 million families were eligible for TANF cash assistance. This estimate is 1.2 million below the 1998 level and the lowest during the 20-year period for which estimates are available.

Table IND 4b. Number and Percentage of Eligible Households Participating in the Food Stamp Program: Selected Years

Date Eligible Households (in millions) Participating Households (in millions) Participation Rate (percent)
Note: Eligible households estimated from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model that uses CPS data to simulate the Food Stamp Program. Caseload data are from USDA, FNS program operations caseload data. There have been small changes in estimating methodology over time, due to model improvements and revisions to the CPS. Most notably, the model was revised in 1994 to produce more accurate (and lower) estimates of eligible households. The original(o) 1994 estimate and estimates for previous years show higher estimates of eligibles and lower participation rates relative to the revised(r) estimate for 1994 and estimates for subsequent years.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Trends in Food Stamp Program Participation Rates: 1976 to 2000.
September 76 16.3 5.3 32.6
February 78 14.0 5.3 37.8
August 80 14.0 7.4 52.5
August82 14.5 7.5 51.5
August84 14.2 7.3 51.6
August86 15.3 7.1 46.5
August88 14.9 7.0 47.1
August90 14.5 8.0 54.9
August91 15.6 9.2 59.1
August 92 16.7 10.2 61.6
August 93 17.0 10.9 64.0
August 94 (o) 17.0 11.0 64.6
September 94 (r) 15.3 10.7 69.6
September95 15.0 10.4 69.2
September96 15.3 9.9 65.1
September97 14.7 8.4 57.5
September98 14.0 7.6 54.2
September99 13.7 7.3 53.0
September00 13.5 7.2 53.2
  • The proportion of eligible households who participated in the Food Stamp Program was 53 percent in 2000, essentially unchanged from 1999. Since 1996, food stamp participation rates have fallen from 65 percent to 53 percent, a drop of 12 percentage points.
  • In addition, there was a decline in the number of households eligible for the Food Stamp Program, from 15.3 million in September 1994 to just under 13.5 million in September 2000. This decline was driven by new eligibility restrictions on aliens and able-bodied adults without dependent children, growth in the economy, changes in the TANF program, and other factors.
  • The significant drop in participating households, from just under 10 million households in September 1996 to 7.2 million households in September 2000, reflects the combined effect of a decline in the eligible population and lower participation rates.

Table IND 4c. Percentage of Eligible Adult Units Participating in the SSI Program, by Type: 1993-2000

    One-Person Units Married-Couple
All Adult Units Aged Disabled Units
Notes: Participation rates estimated using the TRIM3 microsimulation model, which uses CPS data to simulate SSI eligibility for an average month, by calendar year. There have been small changes in estimating methodology over time, due to model improvements and revisions to the CPS. In particular, the model was revised in 1997 to more accurately exclude ineligible immigrants. Thus the increased participation rate in 1997 is partly due to a revision in estimating methodology. Also note that the figure for married-couple units is based on very small sample sizes–for example, married-couple units were only about 7.5 percent of the eligible adults units and 5.1 percent of the units receiving SSI in an average month in 1998.
Source: Unpublished data from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.
1993 62.0 57.0 71.0 37.0
1994 65.0 58.4 73.0 43.9
1995 69.1 64.9 74.0 52.2
1996 66.6 60.4 73.5 46.7
1997 71.1 62.7 79.4 49.1
1998 70.7 63.6 77.9 48.1
1999 74.3 65.8 83.3 47.8
2000 75.8 70.9 82.3 49.9
  • In contrast to the declining participation rates for the AFDC/TANF and Food Stamp programs, the participation rate for adult units in the SSI Program has been increasing, from 62 percent in 1993, to nearly 76 percent in 2000. Some of the apparent growth between 1996 and 1997, however, may be due to a revision in estimating methodology, as noted above.
  • In 2000, as in past years, disabled adults in one-person units had a higher participation rate (82 percent) than either aged adults in one-person units (71 percent) or adults in married-couple units (50 percent).

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