Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2007. Indicator 4. Rates of Participation in Means-tested Assistance Programs

07/31/2007

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

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

Source: AFDC/TANF and SSI participation rates are tabulated using the 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 42 percent of the families estimated as eligible for TANF cash assistance actually enrolled and received benefits in an average month in 2004. 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.
  • Over the past four years the participation rate for food stamps has increased from 48 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2004.
  • After rising steadily to 76 percent in 2000, the SSI participation rate dropped 10 percentage points over the last 4 years. At 66 percent it still is considerably 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 (millions) Participating Families (millions) Participation Rate (percent)

Note: Participation rates are estimated by an Urban Institute model (TRIM3) that 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 editions prior to 2004, this table 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. Although the coverage rate estimates take into account the number of families who lost aid due to the time limit (and do not count such families in the denominator of the coverage rate estimate), they do not make any allowance for families staying off of TANF to conserve their time-limited assistance months. 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. In 2004 the methods for identifying potential child-only units capture the fact that non-parent caretakers generally have a choice of whether or not to be included in the TANF unit. TRIM now excludes those caretakers whose income would make the unit ineligible, increasing the number of potential child-only units.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, caseload tabulations and unpublished tabulations from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.

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
2002 4.55 2.19 48.1
2003 4.77 2.18 45.7
2004 5.08 2.14 42.0
  • Between 2003 and 2004, there was a small increase in the number of families eligible for the TANF program.
  • After falling every year from 1994 to 2001, the caseload has remained fairly steady between 2001 and 2004. The participation rate continued to decrease in 2004 due to the increase of families eligible for the TANF program. In 2004 there were 500,000 more families eligible for TANF than in 2000.
  • Participating families were defined as families receiving cash assistance only. Families receiving services and benefits, other than cash assistance, were 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 (millions) Participating Households (millions) Participation Rate (percent)

Note: Eligible households are 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 the methodology over time, due to model improvements and revisions to the CPS. Notably, the model was revised in 1994 to produce more accurate and lower estimates of eligible households. The 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. The two estimates for 1999 are due to reweighting of the March 2000 – 2003 CPS files to Census 2000 and revised methodologies for determining food stamp eligibility. The original estimate (September 1999) is consistent methodologically with estimates from September 1994 – September 1998, while the revised estimate (FY 1999) is consistent with the estimates for FY 2000 - FY 2002. Due to additional changes in methodology, the estimates for 2003 should not be directly compared to previous estimates.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Food Stamp Program Participation Rates: 2004, June 2006 (available online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/oane/MENU/Published/FSP/FILES/Participation/FSPP...).

September 1976 16.3 5.3 32.6
February 1978 14.0 5.3 37.8
August 1980 14.0 7.4 52.5
August 1982 14.5 7.5 51.5
August 1986 15.3 7.1 46.5
August 1988 14.9 7.0 47.1
August 1990 14.5 8.0 54.9
August 1991 15.6 9.2 59.1
August 1992 16.7 10.2 61.6
August 1993 17.0 10.9 64.0
September 1994 (revised) 15.3 10.7 69.6
September 1995 15.0 10.4 69.2
September 1996 15.3 9.9 65.1
September 1997 14.7 8.4 57.5
September 1998 14.0 7.6 54.2
September 1999 13.7 7.3 53.0
Fiscal Year 1999 14.5 7.5 51.7
Fiscal Year 2001 15.2 7.3 48.0
Fiscal Year 2002 16.6 8.0 48.3
Fiscal Year 2003 17.8 8.9 49.9
Fiscal Year 2004 18.3 10.0 54.7

Between fiscal years 1999 and 2004 there was a 26 percent increase in households eligible for the Food Stamp Program (from 14.5 to 18.3 million households). Caseloads grew by a third over the same period, with the largest increase occurring from 2003 to 2004. Subsequently, the estimated participation rate increased from 52 percent in 1999 to 55 percent in 2004.

While there were 10 million households participating in the Food Stamps Program in 2004, the caseload is still lower than the 1993 peak in. During the mid to late nineties, there was a 32 percent drop in food stamp caseloads, from a peak of nearly 11 million households in 1993 to just over 7 million in 1999. This decline in caseloads occurred during a time when both the eligible population and the program participation rates were generally decreasing.

Table IND 4c. Percentage of Eligible Adult Units Participating in the SSI Program, by Type 1993-2004

    One-Person Units Married-Couple
  All Adult Units Aged Disabled Units

Note: Participation rates are estimated using the TRIM3 microsimulation model that 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. In 2004 the TRIM methods for identifying individuals eligible for SSI due to disability were improved resulting in more eligibles for this category. Also note that the figures for married-couple units are 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 tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 1994-2005, analyzed using 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
2001 69.7 64.4 75.9 45.7
2002 70.4 61.9 78.3 47.9
2003 68.2 62.3 73.8 47.6
2004 65.7 63.3 69.2 46.0
  • After holding fairly constant at about 70 percent between 2001 and 2002, the SSI participation rate among adult units declined in 2003 and 2004. The 2004 SSI participation rate among adult units was about 66 percent – the lowest rate in 10 years.
  • The participation rates among aged one-person units increased slightly to about 63 percent in 2004.
  • The rates for disabled one-person units continued to move downward in 2004 reaching a rate nearly 14 percentage points below its peak of 83 percent in 1999.
  • In 2004, as in past years, disabled adults in one-person units had a higher participation rate (69 percent) than both aged adults in one-person units (63 percent) and adults in marriedcouple units (46 percent).

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