Public Assistance Use Among Two-Parent Families: An Analysis of TANF and Food Stamp Program Eligibility and Participation - Research Brief. Differences between married- and single-parent family participation rates persisted even within demographic and economic subgroups


Not surprisingly, the difference in eligibility rates between low-income married and single parents was largely explained by families' financial situations — even among low-income families, married parents tend to have higher incomes. Demographics like family size and citizenship status also played a role. However, accounting for the gap in participation rates between married and single parents proved more difficult. Even when controlling for a wide variety of family demographic and economic characteristics, as well as state policy variables and conditions, most of the gap between family types remained. Eligible married parents were significantly less likely to participate in TANF or FSP compared to eligible single parents, even when faced with similar situations. While some of this difference may be partially explained by state policy differences that could not be captured in the model,(1) the results suggest that these family types make fundamentally different decisions about public assistance.


  Caseload (1000s) Change Percent of Decline Due to Change in:
1996 2000 '96-'00 # of Low Income Eligibility Rate Participation Rate
TANF Married Parent 543 267 -276 20% -12% 92%
Single Parent 2,507 1,141 -1,366 29% 25% 46%
FSP Married Parent 1,452 723 -729 20% 13% 67%
Single Parent 3,774 2,461 -1,313 53% 24% 23%


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