Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2009-2013. Indicator Summary


Indicator 1: Degree of Dependence. This indicator focuses most closely on those individuals who meet the Advisory Board’s proposed definition of “dependence.” In addition to examining the rate for individuals with more than 50 percent of their annual family income from AFDC/TANF cash assistance, FSP/SNAP benefits, and/or SSI benefits, this indicator shows various levels of dependence by examining different thresholds (Indicators 1a and 1b). This indicator also shows the average percentage of income from the three means-tested assistance programs and earnings received by families with various levels of income relative to the poverty level (Indicators 1c and 1d).

Indicator 2: Receipt of Means-Tested Assistance and Labor Force Attachment. This indicator looks further at the relationship between receipt of the three means-tested assistance programs and participation in the labor force. This is an important issue because of the significant number of low-income individuals that receive a combination of means-tested assistance and earnings from the labor force.

Indicator 3: Rates of Receipt of Means-Tested Assistance. This indicator paints yet another picture of dependence by measuring average monthly recipiency rates, that is, the percentage of the population that receives AFDC/TANF, FSP/SNAP, and/or SSI in an average month. Administrative data for the AFDC/TANF, FSP/SNAP and SSI programs make these figures readily available over time, allowing a better sense of historical trends than is available from the more specialized indicators of dependence. (This indicator differs from the recipiency rate reported in SUM 1, in several ways. First, it focuses on average monthly receipt rather than any receipt over the course of the year. Second, it is limited to actual recipients of assistance rather than including all members of a family unit that receive benefits from a particular welfare program. Third, it shows recipiency rates for individual programs rather than the joint receipt of any one of the three welfare programs.)

Indicator 4: Rates of Participation in Means-Tested Assistance Programs. While means-tested public assistance programs can serve those that meet each program’s requirements, not all eligible individuals and households participate in the programs. This indicator uses AFDC/TANF, FSP/SNAP and SSI administrative data and microsimulation models to reflect average monthly “take-up rates” by year – the number of families that actually participate in the programs as a percentage of those who are estimated to be legally eligible.

Indicator 5: Multiple Program Receipt. Depending on their circumstances, individuals may choose a variety of different means-tested assistance “packages.” This indicator looks at the percentage of individuals receiving AFDC/TANF, FSP/SNAP and SSI in a month, examining how many rely on just one of these programs, and how many rely on a combination of two or more programs. (This indicator differs from SUM 1 because it focus on monthly receipt, rather than annual receipt, and examines program receipt for each program separately and in various combinations. This indicator differs from Indicator 3 in that it includes all members of a family that receive benefits from one of these programs, rather than just the actual recipients themselves as reflected in administrative data).

Indicator 6: Dependence Transitions. This indicator uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to look at whether individuals dependent on welfare (AFDC/TANF, FSP/SNAP, and/or SSI) in one year make the transition out of dependence in the following year.

Indicator 7: Program Spell Duration. One critical aspect of dependence is how long individuals receive means-tested assistance. This indicator provides information on short, medium and long spells of welfare receipt for each of the three major means-tested programs – AFDC/TANF, the SNAP, and SSI.

Indicator 8: Welfare Spell Duration with No Labor Force Attachment. This indicator is concerned with dynamics of welfare receipt among persons in families with no attachment to the labor market. It differs from Indicator 7 in that it provides information on spells of TANF receipt during months where no one in the family worked or was officially unemployed.

Indicator 9: Long Term AFDC/TANF Receipt. Many individuals who leave welfare programs cycle back on after an absence of several months. Thus it is important to look beyond individual program spells, measured in Indicator 7, to examine the cumulative amount of time individuals receive assistance over a period of several years.

Indicator 10: Events Associated with the Beginning and Ending of AFDC/TANF Spells. To gain a better understanding of welfare dynamics, it is important to go beyond measures of spell duration and examine information regarding the major events in people’s lives that are correlated with the beginnings or endings of program spells. This measure focuses on receipt of TANF.

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