Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2004. Indicator 4. Rates of Participation in Means-tested Assistance Programs

04/27/2005

Figure IND 4. Participation Rates in the AFDC/TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Programs Selected YearsFigure IND 4. Participation Rates in the AFDC/TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Programs Selected Years
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).
  • Only 48 percent of the families estimated as eligible for TANF cash assistance actually enrolled and received benefits in an average month in 2001. This is significantly lower than AFDC participation rates, which ranged from 77 percent to 86 percent between 1981 and 1996. See Table IND 4a for further information.
  • The food stamp participation rate edged up slightly between 2000 and 2001, from 53 to 54 percent. The participation rate is still much lower than the 1994 rate of 70 percent. See Table IND 4b for further discussion.
  • After rising steadily over the past several years, the SSI participation rate appears to have dropped nearly 6 percentage points between 2000 and 2001. At 70 percent it still is much higher than recent TANF and Food Stamp participation rates. See Table IND 4c for details by age and disability status.
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)
1981 4.78 3.84 80.2
1983 4.75 3.69 77.7
1985 4.67 3.70 79.3
1987 4.92 3.78 76.7
1988 4.78 3.75 78.4
1989 4.54 3.80 83.6
1990 4.93 4.06 82.2
1992 5.64 4.83 85.7
1993 6.14 5.01 81.7
1994 (revised) 6.13 5.03 82.1
1995 5.69 4.80 84.3
1996 5.62 4.43 78.9
1997 (adjusted) 5.41 3.74 69.2
1998 (adjusted) 5.47 3.05 55.8
1999 5.07 2.65 52.3
2000 4.44 2.30 51.8
2001 4.56 2.19 48.0

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. In contrast to past editions, this table now includes families receiving assistance under Separate State Programs. Note that families subject to full-family sanctions are counted as nonparticipating eligible families due to modeling limitations. Also, the numbers of eligible and participating families 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: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, caseload tabulations and unpublished data from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.


  • Between 2000 and 2001, eligibility for the TANF program increased slightly from 4.44 to 4.56 million families. This eligibility increase is primarily due to changes in the economy and/or population rather than changes in TANF eligibility rules.
  • Despite the small increase in TANF eligibility in 2001, caseloads continued to fall, resulting in a drop in the participation rate for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Participating families includes families receiving TANF cash assistance only. Families who receive services and benefits other than cash assistance are not included in the participation rate.
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)
September 76 16.3 5.3 32.6
February 78 14.0 5.3 37.8
August 80 14.0 7.4 52.5
August 82 14.5 7.5 51.5
August 84 14.2 7.3 51.6
August 86 15.3 7.1 46.5
August 88 14.9 7.0 47.1
August 90 14.5 8.0 54.9
August 91 15.6 9.2 59.1
August 92 16.7 10.2 61.6
August 93 17.0 10.9 64.0
September 94 (revised) 15.3 10.7 69.6
September 95 15.0 10.4 69.2
September 96 15.3 9.9 65.1
September 97 14.7 8.4 57.5
September 98 14.0 7.6 54.2
September 99 13.6 7.3 53.7
September 00 13.5 7.1 52.9
September 01 13.9 7.5 54.0

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 1994 estimate and estimates for previous years show higher estimates of eligibles and lower participation rates relative to the revised 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: 1999 to 2001, July 2003.


  • Between September 2000 and September 2001, there was a small increase in households eligible for the Food Stamp Program (from 13.5 to 13.9 million households). Caseloads grew at a slightly higher rate over the same year. The net effect was a small increase in the measured participation rate, from 53 to 54 percent.
  • Over the longer run, there has been a significant drop in food stamp caseloads, from over 10 million in 1992 through 1995, to 7.5 million in 2001. This decline in caseloads occurred during a time when both the eligible population and the program participation rates were generally decreasing. These longer-term decreases are considerably larger than the small increases experienced in 2001.
Table IND 4c. Percentage of Eligible Adult Units Participating in the SSI Program, by Type 1993-2001
 
  All Adult Units One-Person Units Married-Couple Units
Aged Disabled
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
2001 69.7 64.4 75.9 45.7

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 the average month of 1998.

Source: Unpublished data from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.


  • There was an apparent drop in the SSI participation rate among adult units between 2000 and 2001, from 76 to 70 percent. This decline occurred across aged one-person units, disabled one-person units, and married-couple units that are either aged or disabled and it is due to a significant increase in the estimated eligible population of these groups. There have not been similar increases in the participating populations, perhaps due to lags between application and enrollment.
  • The increase in the eligible population reflects a rise in the number of aged individuals, an increase in disabilities as reported on labor-market surveys (which may partially reflect tougher economic times), and a higher percentage of aged and disabled persons falling below the SSI eligibility limits. Some of the increase in the eligible population may be due to changes in the Current Population Survey (i.e., reweighting to reflect 2000 Census-based weights).
  • In 2001, as in past years, disabled adults in one-person units had a higher participation rate (76 percent) than both aged adults in one-person units (64 percent) and adults in married-couple units (46 percent).

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