Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2008. Economic Security Risk Factors (ECON)


The first group includes eight measures associated with economic security.  This group encompasses five measures of poverty, as well as measures of child support receipt, food insecurity, and lack of health insurance.  The tables and figures illustrating measures of economic security are labeled with the prefix ECON throughout this chapter.

Poverty measures are important predictors of dependence, because families with fewer economic resources are more likely to be dependent on means-tested assistance.  In addition, poverty and other measures of deprivation, such as food insecurity, are important to assess in conjunction with the measures of dependence outlined in Chapter II.

Reductions in caseloads and dependence can reduce poverty, to the extent that such reductions are associated with greater work activity and higher economic resources for former welfare families.  However, if former welfare families are left with fewer economic resources, reductions in welfare caseloads may not lead to decreases in poverty.

Several aspects of poverty are examined in this chapter.  Those that can be updated annually using the Current Population Survey include: overall poverty rates (ECON 1); the percentage of individuals in deep poverty (ECON 2), and poverty rates using alternative definitions of income (ECON 3 and 4).  The chapter also includes data on the length of poverty episodes or spells (ECON 5).

This chapter also includes data on child support collections (ECON 6), which can play an important role in reducing dependence on government assistance and thus serve as a predictor of dependence.  Household food insecurity (ECON 7) is an important measure of deprivation that, although correlated with general income poverty, provides an alternative measure of tracking the incidence of material hardship and need, and how it may change over time.  Finally, lack of health insurance (ECON 8) is tied to the income level of the family, and may be a precursor to future health problems among adults and children.

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