Monitoring Outcomes for Former Welfare Recipients: A Review of 11 Survey Instruments. Food Stamp Receipt


Ten of the eleven instruments ask questions about food stamp receipt.  Five of these simply ask one question, such as “does your family currently receive food stamps?” and five ask additional questions, including whether food stamps continued after the household left cash assistance; if not, why not; and the amount of food stamps received.  Illinois asks two additional questions not seen on other surveys:  whether or not the former recipient has applied for food stamps since leaving TANF, and if not, why not.  The Georgia survey does not appear to ask any questions about food stamp receipt, presumably relying on administrative records for this information.  Illinois and Georgia are shown in the first and last columns, respectively, of Table II-A, which shows the types of questions asked by each grantee.


Table II-A:  Receipt of Food Stamps

Received food stamps (now/last month) X X X X X X X X       8
Received food stamps (within last 6 months or any time since TANF exit) X     X         X X   4
Continued to received food stamps (when left TANF)   X X                 2
Why not get food stamps X X X X               4
Amount received (last month)   X(2) X   X             3
Total Number of Questions 5(1) 4 4 3 2 1 1 1 1 1 0  

1.  The Illinois survey also has two additional questions, “Have you applied for food stamps?” and “If not, why not?”
2.  Arizona asks about amount of Food Stamps received Dec. 1997 (last month of TANF Receipt) and last month.


The exact phrasing of questions about food stamp receipt varies across three dimensions:

  • Time Period of Receipt.  Eight questionnaires ask about receipt this month (or last month); four ask whether the family has received Food stamps at any point in the last six months, or roughly equivalently, since leaving TANF; and two ask if the family continued to receive food stamps when it exited from TANF.  (See Table II-A).
  • Definition of Family or Household.  Four instruments ask if “you or anyone else in your household” or “you or someone in your home receives food stamps”; two instruments make reference to “you and your immediate family,”(9)  and the remaining four speak more generally of “you and your family,” or sometimes just “you” with an implicit reference to the family.  (See Appendix II for exact wording of the food stamp receipt questions).
  • Context of Question.  Finally, while some surveys ask about “income from food stamps” along with a list of other income sources, others ask about “getting or using” food stamps along with a list of benefits/services, and a few ask about food stamps as a completely separate topic.

Though these phrasing variations may not make a large difference, one might expect slightly larger measures of receipt when measured over a six­month as opposed to a one­month period, and larger measures of receipt when including food stamps received by any member of the home or household.

In addition to questions about food stamp receipt, eight instruments include questions about the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition program and six ask about children’s receipt of school lunches (see Table II-B).  A few also ask questions about the school breakfast or summer feeding programs.  In addition, though not shown in Table II-B, ten of the eleven instruments ask questions about non­governmental assistance, such as meals or food from shelters, food kitchens, or food banks (see Appendix IV-B).

Table II-A:  Receipt of Other Federal Nutrition Benefits

Receive WIC X X   X X X X X   X   8
School Lunch X X        X   X   X X 6
School Breakfast               X     X 2
Summer Food Program           X   X   X   3
Total Number of Questions 2 2 0 1 1 3 2(1) 4 0 3 2  

1.  The Missouri survey has an additional question, “Did you ever hear of the government’s WIC program?”