Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2009-2013. INDICATOR 4. Rates of Participation in Means-Tested Assistance Programs

04/01/2013

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

1 Unlike the SNAP 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.

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 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.

SNAP eligible households are estimated from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model that uses CPS data to simulate program eligibility. SNAP 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 SNAP 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 2009.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Year 2002 to Fiscal Year 2009 available online at www.fns.usda.gov/ora/MENU/Published/SNAP/FILES/Participation/Trends2002-...,

  • Figure IND 4 shows the participation rates of means-tested assistance programs for selected years. This indicator examines the average monthly number of participating families or households as a percentage of the estimated eligible population. It is a contrast to Indicator 3, which examines participants as an average monthly (December for SSI) percentage of the total population (recipiency rates).
  • Thirty-two (32.3) percent of families estimated as eligible for TANF assistance, 64.6 percent of households estimated as eligible for SSI, and 72.2 percent of adults estimated as eligible for SNAP are estimated to have enrolled and received benefits in an average month in 2009.

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)
1981 4.8 3.8 80.2
1983 4.8 3.7 77.7
1985 4.7 3.7 79.3
1987 4.9 3.8 76.7
1988 4.8 3.8 78.4
1989 4.5 3.8 83.6
1990 4.9 4.1 82.2
1992 5.6 4.8 85.7
1993 6.1 5.0 81.7
1994 (revised) 6.1 5.0 82.1
1995 5.7 4.8 84.3
1996 5.6 4.4 78.9
1997 (adjusted) 5.4 3.7 69.2
1998 (adjusted) 5.5 3.1 55.8
1999 5.1 2.7 52.3
2000 4.4 2.3 51.8
2001 4.6 2.2 48.0
2002 4.6 2.2 48.1
2003 4.8 2.2 45.7
2004 5.2 2.2 42.0
2005 5.3 2.1 40.4
2006 5.4 2.1 39.0
2007 5.3 1.9 36.0
2008 5.2 1.7 33.0
2009 5.7 1.8 32.3

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.

  • Between 1981 and 1996, participation rates in the AFDC program ranged from 76.7 percent (in 1987) to 85.7 percent (in 1992). Participation rates in what is traditionally considered “welfare” (AFDC/TANF) have steadily declined. In 1992, 85.7 percent of eligible families participated in the AFDC program. By 2009, 32.3 percent of eligible families participated in the TANF program. Since welfare reform (1996) through 2009, there was a steady decline in the number of eligible families participating in the TANF program. While the caseload slightly in 2009, the share of eligibles who participated still declined.
  • 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 the cash assistance caseload counts used to derive these participation rate estimates. Over the years families also may have received cash benefits or other services through general assistance and other solely state-funded programs20 that are separate from the TANF program and are not shown here.

Table IND 4b. Number and Percentage of Eligible Households Participating in SNAP: Selected Years

Date Eligible Households
(millions)
Participating Households
(millions)
Participation Rate
(percent)
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 1984 14.2 7.3 51.6
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 16.6 10.2 61.6
August 1993 17.0 10.9 64.0
August 1994 17.0 11.0 64.6
September 1994 (revised) 15.3 10.7 69.6
September 1995 15.0 10.4 69.2
888September 1996 15.3 9.9 65.1
September 1997 14.7 8.5 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 51.6
Fiscal Year 2000 14.2 7.2 50.0
Fiscal Year 2001 15.1 7.3 47.8
Fiscal Year 2002 16.7 8.0 47.6
Fiscal Year 2003 17.1 8.9 52.1
Fiscal Year 2004 17.5 10.0 57.1
Fiscal Year 2005 17.7 10.7 60.6
Fiscal Year 2006 17.1 11.2 65.3
Fiscal Year 2007 17.5 11.4 65.5
Fiscal Year 2008 18.0 12.3 68.4
Fiscal Year 2009 20.3 14.7 72.2

Note: SNAP eligible households are estimated from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model that uses CPS data to simulate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP 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 SNAP 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 2006.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Year 2002 to Fiscal Year 2009 available online at www.fns.usda.gov/ora/MENU/Published/SNAP/FILES/Participation/Trends2002-....

  • Table IND 4b shows the average monthly number and percentage of eligible households participating in FSP/SNAP for selected years. Since fiscal year 2002, the participation rate for SNAP has increased from 47.6 percent in fiscal year 2002 to 72.2 percent in fiscal year 2009.
  • Between fiscal years 1999 and 2009 there was a 40.1 percent increase in households eligible for the Food Stamp/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (from 14.5 to 20.3 million households). Caseloads grew by 96.4 percent over the same period, with notable increases occurring between fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
  • There were 14.7 million households participating in the SNAP in fiscal year 2009, the highest number recorded in the history of the program. During the mid to late 1990s, there was a 34.5 percent drop in SNAP caseloads, from a peak of 11 million households in 1994 to 7.2 million households in 2000. 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: 1993-2009

  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
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
2006 68.8 69.1 72.5 39.9
2007 66.8 61.6 72.3 43.0
2008 65.6 67.3 68.0 39.8
2009 64.6 64.8 67.4 40.0

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, 1994-2010, analyzed using the TRIM3 microsimulation model.

  • Table IND 4c shows the average monthly number and 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 64.6 percent of those estimated to be eligible for SSI in 2009. This rate is substantially higher than recent TANF rates but has been eclipsed by the SNAP participation rate in 2009 (see Tables IND 4a and IND 4b).
  • 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 64.8 percent in 2009.

20 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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