Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2008. INDICATOR 4. Rates of Participation in Means-Tested Assistance Programs

12/20/2008

Figure IND 4.
Participation Rates in the AFDC/TANF1, Food Stamp and SSI Programs: Selected Years

Figure IND 4

Note:  AFDC/TANF and SSI participation rates are estimated by an Urban Institute model (TRIM3) that uses CPS data to simulate program 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.  For TANF, in contrast to editions prior to 2004, this table includes families receiving assistance under Separate State Programs (SSPs).  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.

Food Stamp Eligible households are estimated from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model that uses CPS data to simulate the Food Stamp Program.  Food Stamp 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 re-weighting 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 2005.

Source:  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Trends in Food Stamp Program Participation Rates: 1999-2005 (available online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/snapmain.htm), and unpublished tabulations from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.


  • Figure IND 4 shows the participation rates of means-tested assistance programs for selected years.  This indicator examines participating families or households as a percentage of the estimated eligible population.  It is a contrast to Indicator 3, which examines participants as a percentage of the total population (recipiency rates).
  • Forty (40.4) percent of families estimated as eligible for TANF cash assistance, 59.1 percent of households estimated as eligible for food stamps, and 67.7 percent of adults estimated as eligible for SSI are estimated to have enrolled and received benefits in an average month in 2005.

Table IND 4a.
Number and Percentage of Eligible Families Participating in the AFDC/TANF Cash Assistance Program: Selected Years

Calendar
Year
Eligible Families
(millions)
Participating Families
(millions)
Participation Rate
(percent)
Note:  AFDC/TANF 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 (SSPs).  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 5.22 2.19 42.0
2005 5.27 2.13 40.4
  • Table IND 4a shows the number and percentage of eligible families participating in the cash AFDC/TANF program in selected years.
  • Between 1981 and 1996, participation rates in the AFDC program ranged from 76.7 percent (in 1987) to 85.7 percent (in 1992).
  • After 1996, participation rates in the cash TANF program decreased from 78.9 percent of families estimated to be eligible for AFDC/TANF cash benefits in 1996 to 40.4 percent of families estimated to be eligible for TANF cash benefits in 2005.
  • Note that TANF is a flexible program with a flexible funding stream.  As such, states provide substantial “non assistance” services and benefits that would not be included in these cash assistance estimates.
  • Families also may receive cash benefits or other services through general assistance and other solely state-funded programs2 that are separate from the TANF program and are not shown here.

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:  Food Stamp Eligible households are estimated from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model that uses CPS data to simulate the Food Stamp Program.  Food Stamp 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 re-weighting 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 2005.

Source:  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Trends in Food Stamp Program Participation Rates: 1999-2005 (available online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/snapmain.htm).

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 51.4
Fiscal Year 2000 14.3 7.1 50.0
Fiscal Year 2001 15.2 7.3 47.8
Fiscal Year 2002 16.7 8.0 47.6
Fiscal Year 2003 17.9 8.9 49.7
Fiscal Year 2004 18.0 10.0 55.5
Fiscal Year 2005 18.1 10.7 59.1
  • Table IND 4b shows the number and percentage of eligible households participating in the Food Stamp Program for selected years.  Between fiscal years 2004 and 2005, the participation rate for food stamps increased from 55.5 percent in 2004 to 59.1 percent in 2005.
  • Between fiscal years 1999 and 2005 there was a 24.8 percent increase in households eligible for the Food Stamp Program (from 14.5 to 18.1 million households).  Caseloads grew by 42.6 percent over the same period, with notable increases occurring in both 2004 and 2005.  Subsequently, the estimated participation rate increased from 51.4 percent in 1999 to 59.1 percent in 2005.
  • While there were 10.7 million households participating in the Food Stamp Program in 2005, the caseload is still lower than the 1993 peak (10.9 million households).  During the mid to late 1990s, there was a 33 percent drop in food stamp caseloads, from a peak of 10.9 million households in 1993 to 7.3 million households 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 Selected Characteristics: 1993-2005

  All Adult Units One-Person Units Married-Couple Units
Aged Disabled
Note:  SSI 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 and 1998 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.  Still it is important to note that the TRIM model utilizes the limited information on disability status available from the Current Population Survey and thus may be underestimating the eligible non-elderly adult population resulting in participation rates that are too high.  For example unpublished tabulations from the Social Security Administration based on data from the Survey of Income and program Participation suggest that the rate of SSI participation among eligible non-elderly adults may be somewhere between a low estimate of around 40 percent and a high estimate of 80 percent — a fairly wide range.  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 adult 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
2005 67.7 63.4 73.5 41.1
  • Table IND 4c shows the percentage of eligible adult units participating in the SSI program by select demographic categories. After rising to 75.8 percent of adults estimated to be eligible for SSI in 2000, the SSI participation rate decreased to 67.7 percent of those estimated to be eligible for SSI in 2005.  This rate remains higher than recent TANF and food stamp participation rates (see Tables IND 4a and IND 4b).
  • Between 2004 and 2005, for aged adults in one-person units, the estimated SSI participation rate increased from 57.0 percent in 1993 to a high of 70.9 percent in 2000.  After some declines in the early 2000s, the estimated SSI participation rate among aged one-person units increased from 61.9 percent in 2002 to 63.4 percent in 2005.

1 Unlike the Food Stamp and SSI programs, TANF is a block grant program for which there is no individual entitlement.  One of the main goals of TANF is to move people from cash assistance to self-sufficiency, which may be inconsistent with achieving a higher coverage rate.

2 As discussed in the note to Table IND 4a above, the model for estimating participation in the TANF cash assistance program does take into account benefits from Separate State Programs (SSPs) that are used to meet Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirements.

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