Interim Status Report on Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform. Update on using Food Stamp administrative data


In 1998 ASPE contracted with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. to assess the potential for using food stamp administrative data to look at welfare “leavers” and nonparticipants at the national level.  Historically, almost all of the households that received AFDC/TANF also participated in the Food Stamp Program.  As reported in “Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of TANF Recipients:  July­September 1997,” approximately 85 percent of TANF families received food stamp assistance during that period, which is consistent with previous levels under the AFDC program.  (By contrast, households with AFDC/TANF constituted just 35 percent of all food stamp households in 1997.)  Since the overlap between AFDC/TANF and food stamp participation is so great, the potential for using Food Stamp Program administrative data to examine the status of TANF recipients after they leave the TANF caseload is an important avenue to explore.

After extensive discussions with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service concerning case information in the National Integrated Quality Control System (NIQCS) and state food stamp administrative records, it has become clear that significant technical obstacles must be overcome in order to use food stamp administrative data to look at welfare leavers and nonparticipants.  For example, welfare “leavers” must be observed at two points in food stamp records — at a point when they are receiving both AFDC/TANF and food stamps, and at a point when they are receiving just food stamps.  Since the NIQCS information is based on a point­in­time review of food stamp participation, rather than a longitudinal look, one approach would be to merge state case record data with the NIQCS files to create a sample for review.  However, it was ultimately determined that merging such data would not be feasible for several reasons, not the least of which was the burden that would be placed on state agencies to identify and retrieve relevant case records.

Therefore, the project, still in the conceptual design stage, will explore various other ways in which the food stamp data can be used to look at outcomes regarding employment and continued participation in other programs.  This could include various analyses depending on their feasibility, such as an assessment of whether TANF leavers and nonparticipants in the FY 1998 grantee states and counties are representative of leavers and nonparticipants in the rest of the country.  Another example of potential analysis under this study is a simulation of changes in TANF participation rates among those who are income eligible and on Food Stamps.