Performance Improvement 2006. Public Assistance Use Among Two-Parent Families: an Analysis of TANF and Food Stamp Program Eligibility and Participation


States increasingly are focusing on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) goals relating to promoting and supporting healthy marriage. To understand how state policies may affect marriage, it is useful to first examine the extent to which existing public assistance programs provide benefits to both married-parent and single-parent families. Specifically, this recent study by Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) examines patterns of married- and single-parent families’ eligibility and participation in the (TANF) program and the Food Stamp Program (FSP). Results are based on data from the 2001 Current Population Survey as well as micro-simulation results from the TRIM3 and MATH models. Among the key findings are: (1) low-income married-parent families are less likely than single-parent families to be eligible for public assistance programs, and once eligible, are less likely to participate; (2) FSP and TANF caseloads have declined over time for both married- and single-parent families, but the reasons differ between the two; and (3) differences between married- and single-parent family participation rates persisted even after controlling for demographic and economic circumstances, suggesting that these family types make fundamentally different decisions about public assistance.

PIC ID: 8179; Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy; Federal Contact: Kaye, Kelleen, 202-401-6634; Performer: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Princeton, NJ

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