Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2007. Indicator 7. Program Spell Duration

07/31/2007

Figure IND 7. Percentage of TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Spells for Individuals Entering Programs during the 2001-2003 Period, by Length of Spell

Figure IND 7. Percentage of TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Spells for Individuals Entering Programs during the 2001-2003 Period, by Length of Spell

Source: Unpublished tabulations from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2001 panel.


  • Between the years 2001 and 2003, short spells lasting 4 months or less accounted for about 50 percent of TANF spells, 36 percent of food stamp spells and 28 percent of SSI spells.
  • Approximately three-fourths of all TANF spells (73 percent) and three-fifths of food stamp spells (60 percent) lasted one year or less. In contrast, only 49 percent of SSI spells ended within one year, as shown in Table IND 7a.
  • As shown in Table IND 7a, for TANF spells, a smaller percentage of long spells (lasting more than 20 months) occurred among non-Hispanic whites (12 percent) compared to non- Hispanic blacks and Hispanics (19 percent and 20 percent, respectively). In contrast, these groups did not differ greatly in the percentage of long spells for food stamps.
  • Spells of welfare receipt were shorter in the early 2000s than in the early 1990s, as shown in Table IND 7b. For example, only 17 percent of TANF spells for individuals entering TANF between 2001 and 2003 lasted 20 months or longer, compared with 34 percent of AFDC spells beginning between 1992 and 1994. A similar pattern was found for SSI with only 44 percent of SSI spells lasting 20 months or longer in early 2000, compared with 61 percent in the early nineties.
  • Length of TANF receipt varies across states, as shown in Appendix Table TANF 17, which shows an alternative measure of length of TANF receipt, using state administrative data.

Table IND 7a. Percentage of TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Spells for Individuals Entering Programs during the 2001-2003 Period, by Length of Spell, Race/Ethnicity and Age

    Spells <=4 Months Spells 5-12 Months Spells 13-20 Months Spells >20 Months

Note: Spell length categories are not mutually exclusive. Spells separated by only 1 month are not considered separate spells. Due to the length of the observation period, actual spell lengths for spells that lasted more than 20 months cannot be observed. TANF spells are defined as those starting during the 2001 SIPP Panel. For certain age categories, data are not available (NA) because of insufficient sample size.

Persons of Hispanic ethnicity may be of any race. Due to small sample size, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders are included in the total for all persons but are not shown separately.

Source: Unpublished tabulations from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2001 panel.

TANF All Recipients 49.6 23.7 10 16.8
Racial/Ethnic Categories
Non-Hispanic White 51.4 23.7 13.1 11.9
Non-Hispanic Black 50.6 23.5 6.8 19.1
Hispanic 51.7 20.1 8.4 19.8
Age Categories
Children Ages 0-5 50 24 11.9 14.1
Children Ages 6-10 45.4 21.5 8.5 24.6
Children Ages 11-15 43.7 25.3 12.4 18.6
Adults Ages 16-64 52.9 24.2 8.4 14.4
Adults Ages 65 and over NA NA NA NA
FOOD STAMPS All Recipients 35.9 24.4 8.9 30.7
Racial/Ethnic Categories
Non-Hispanic White 35.9 25.8 8 30.3
Non-Hispanic Black 32.2 23.7 11.7 32.4
Hispanic 40.5 22.5 7.8 29.2
Age Categories
Children Ages 0-5 27.7 25.6 12.9 33.8
Children Ages 6-10 28.6 27.4 10.7 33.3
Children Ages 11-15 31.8 28.1 9.6 30.6
Adults Ages 16-64 40.3 23.9 7.5 28.4
Adults Ages 65 and over 30 12.5 9.6 48
SSI All Recipients 27.9 21.4 7.3 43.5
Racial/Ethnic Categories
Non-Hispanic White 31.3 19.8 7.9 41
Non-Hispanic Black 26.9 25.3 7.1 40.7
Hispanic 23.7 18.8 7.3 50.2
Age Categories
Children Ages 0-10 NA NA NA NA
Children Ages 11-15 31.2 18.8 3.9 46.1
Adults Ages 16-64 29.4 20.9 7.2 42.5
Adults Ages 65 and over 22.7 23.2 8.4 45.7

Table IND 7b. Percentage of AFDC/TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Spells for Individuals Entering Programs during Selected Time Periods

  Spells <=4 Months Spells 5-12 Months Spells 13-20 Months Spells >20 Months
Source: Unpublished tabulations from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, 1992, 1993, 1996 and 2001 Panels.
1992-1994        
AFDC 30.4 24.7 10.5 34.4
Food Stamps 33.4 24.9 10.2 31.5
SSI 25.7 8.9 4.8 60.6
1993-1995        
AFDC Food Stamps 30.7 33.1 25.4 26.8 12.5 10.1 31.4 30.0
SSI 24.0 7.9 4.7 63.4
1996-1999        
AFDC/TANF 46.6 29.2 11.5 12.7
Food Stamps 43.1 27.7 9.3 19.8
SSI 34.1 19.2 9.1 37.6
2001-2003        
TANF 49.6 23.7 10.0 16.8
Food Stamps 35.9 24.4 8.9 30.7
SSI 27.9 21.4 7.3 43.5

 

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