Report on Alternative Outcome Measures: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant . Administrative Data


Under section 411 of the Social Security Act, states are required to collect and report TANF Administrative Data. The data are collected by states monthly, reported to HHS (Administration for Children and Families) quarterly, and consist of both disaggregated and aggregated data on TANF recipients and some others in TANF households. The states also report similar data on closed cases and on participants in separate state programs. The data are used for many purposes including the calculation of participation rates for one and two parent families, determining the number of families reaching the time limits for receipt of TANF, and compiling the characteristics of TANF recipients. States have the option of providing the data via a sample of the population or the entire population. This data source could be used for measuring:

  • Recidivism rate;
  • Food Stamp receipt among TANF recipients;
  • Medicaid/SCHIP receipt among TANF recipients;
  • Out-of-wedlock birth rates for TANF families;
  • Level of participation in work and work-related activities;
  • Percentage of caseload reaching time limits; and
  • Caseload reduction.

Most states also collect additional data elements which are not required by the federal government for their own policy and program management functions. State administrative data systems frequently collect information on such areas as caseload demographics, caseload reduction, information related to the reasons clients left the TANF caseload, work participation rates, job placement data, caseload distribution by local office, and type of child care TANF clients use (APHSA, 2000). While these data elements are not collected consistently by all states, they could be the basis for optional performance measures.

States collect Food Stamp Quality Control (QC) Data as part of quality control reviews conducted in accordance with section 16 of the Food Stamp Act o f 1977, as amended, and Part 275, Subpart C of the Food Stamp Program regulations (7CFR275). Data are collected monthly from a sample of households selected for review as part of the Integrated Quality Control System (IQCS), an ongoing review of food stamp household circumstances. The IQCS is designed to determine (1) if households are eligible to participate or are receiving the correct benefit amount and (2) if household participation is correctly denied or terminated. The IQCS is based on a national probability sample of approximately 50,000 participating food stamp households, and on a somewhat smaller number of denials and terminations. The national sample of participating households collected in the IQCS is stratified by the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Annual required state samples range from a minimum of 300 to 1200 reviews, depending on the size of the states caseload. State agencies select an independent sample each month that is generally proportionate to the size of the monthly participating caseload.

The Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) is designed to collect, manage, analyze, and distribute information on eligibles, recipients, use and payment for services covered by State Medicaid programs. States provide the Health Care Financing Agency (HCFA) with quarterly files containing specified data elements for: (1) persons covered by Medicaid (Eligible File), and (2) adjudicated claims for medical services reimbursed with Title XIX funds (Claims File). These data are furnished on a Federal Fiscal Year quarterly schedule, which begins October 1 of each year. The Eligible File, which is used to tract enrollment on a quarterly basis, contains one record for each person who was eligible for Medicaid for at least one day during the reporting quarter. These files classify individuals by type of eligibility category and contain a flag for TANF receipt, even though Medicaid eligibility is no longer automatically linked to welfare receipt. The Claims File contains several types of records: all Current Claims for Medical Services, Adjustments to Previously Paid Claims, Premium Payments, Lump Sum Adjustments, and Dummy Claims. Dummy Claims simulate claims that would have been generated for Managed Care patients if they were billed on a fee-for-service basis. The Claims Files are submitted quarterly based on the date of payment, not on the date of service.

The State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) requires States to provide quarterly expenditure reports to support claims for federal matching funds and financial/statistical data for purposes of program monitoring and evaluation. Regarding expenditure reports, in order to receive Federal matching funds, States report quarterly expenditures made during any quarter of the State program's operation. Such expenditure reports should be submitted within 30 days of the end of the quarter for use in calculating federal funding requirements. For enrollment data, States report enrollment figures on a quarterly basis in four age categories for children under age 19 (under 1, 1-5, 6-12, and 13-18) and family income categories related to Federal poverty levels and State cost sharing requirements. States report on the total unduplicated number of children served in the SCHIP program (both separate SCHIP and Medicaid expansion) as well as the non-SCHIP-related children in the regular Medicaid program, and enrollees and disenrollees for each quarter. These reports also provide for reporting enrollment status data for each type of service delivery system that the individual is enrolled in (i.e., fee-for-service, managed care, or primary care case management) by age and income categories.

As under TANF, states frequently collect additional information regarding their Food Stamp program, Medicaid, and SCHIP that is not required by the federal government. These data may be stored in separate or unified data systems. Some states record monthly data in such a manner that longitudinal event histories for cases my be constructed, while others store only the most current information.

State employment security agencies collect Unemployment Insurance (UI) Quarterly Earnings Records for the purposes of determining eligibility for unemployment insurance. UI records are available on a relatively timely basis within six months of the end of a quarter. UI reports total quarterly earnings, but does not provide information on wage rates or hours of work. UI records do not provide the start or end date of employment, so it may be difficult to determine whether an individual left assistance before or after they started a job. UI does not capture all employment by law, certain types of employment are not "covered" by unemployment insurance, meaning the system does not capture the employment of individuals working in specific types of jobs. Employment that is not covered by the UI system includes independent contractors, federal (including military) and foreign government employees, student employees at an educational institution, domestic employees (below a specified earnings level), certain agricultural workers and elected officials. Moreover, there is reason to believe that much casual or irregular employment is never reported to any government agency, and is therefore missed by the UI data. While there is not believed to be significant variation among states in terms of how coverage is defined, states with higher percentages of non-covered employment may be disadvantaged by use of UI data to measure employment rates. Finally, because UI records are maintained at the state level, they do not record circumstances when individuals find employment in another state. This would affect areas where major employment centers cross state lines.

UI data can be linked to a list of social security numbers in order to calculate employment rates and earnings levels for a given population. While this linking task is not trivial, it is being widely performed by states for research purposes as well as to calculate the performance measures for the TANF High Performance Bonus. The main advantage of using UI records is that all of the data collection is occurring anyway, and therefore the additional burden and cost is minimal.

The National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) is part of the expanded Federal Parent Locator Service provided by the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The primary purpose of the NDNH is the establishment and enforcement of child support obligations by helping states locate non-custodial parents and identify their employers. Other purposes of the database include support for the administration of IV-A programs (TANF) and research. The NDNH contains information obtained from States New Hire Directories, State Employment Service Agencies (quarterly earnings and Unemployment Insurance benefits) and Federal Agency personnel offices (new hire and quarterly wage data). The data are maintained for a period of two years unless there is an active child support enforcement case.

The NDNH shares many of the strengths and weaknesses of the underlying UI data on which it is based. One key difference is that the NDNH includes federal civilian and military workers, who are not covered under states UI systems. In addition, because the NDNH is a national dataset, it captures information on employment even if a recipient is not working in the same state where she receives welfare. Finally, because the federal government could perform the match between the NDNH and the list of TANF recipients, the data could be more consistently measured across states and the burden on state agencies could be reduced.

Table D-1.
Select Data Bases and Their Characteristics.
Title Agency Unit of Analysis Frequency Data Availability Sample Size State-Level Estimates Comments
Decennial Census Census Households Families Individuals Every 10 years 18 months after data collection 1 in 6 housing units (about 20 million units) Yes (estimates for smaller geographic areas possible)  
Proposed American Community Survey (ACS) Census Households Families Individuals Monthly Data released on annual basis approx. 6 months after each 12 month period (for populations 65,000+) Estimated full-scale survey annual sample: 3,000,000 Yes (estimates for smaller geographic areas possible with greater time delay) Pretesting: 1996-1998 Comparison testing (with the 2000 long form): 1999-2002 If fully implemented, estimated date for full implementation: 2003
March Current Population Survey (CPS) Census/ BLS Households Families Individuals Annual   6 months after data collection Approx. 50,000 households Yes (3-4 year rolling averages required due to sample size) The March CPS Demographic Supplement provides labor force data (current week and previous calender year) as well as data on income, education and program participation.
Survey of Income & Program Participation (SIPP) Census Households Families Individuals Every 4 months; Panel length: 2.5 - 4 years 2-3 years after data collection 14,000-36,000 households No SIPP is built around a core of labor force, program participation, and income questions. Additional modules cover child care, child well-being, disability, taxes, wealth, and other topics.
Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD) Census Households Families Individuals Annual 2-3 years after data collection 18,500 households No The SPD is a longitudinal follow-up of the 1992 and 1993 panels of the SIPP primarily focused on program participation, income and employment.
Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) Univ. of Michigan Households Families Individuals Annual, every other year starting in 1997 Minimum of 2 years after data collection 8,700 core families No Tracks the economic well-being of families and individuals across time and generations.
National Longitudinal Surveys: Young men (1966-1981) Older men (1966-1990) Young women (1968- ) Mature women (1967- ) NLSY79 (1979- ) NLSY79 Children (1986- ) NLSY97 (1997- ) BLS Households Families Individuals 1-yr. and 2-yr. intervals Approx. 12-15 months after data collection Varying sample sizes: 5,600-12,600 No The surveys involve 7 cohorts. Data are gathered on labor market issues, as well as education, training, income and program participation.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Data ACF TANF assistance units Monthly data reported quarterly Approx. 6 months after FY end 3,000 per state Yes Full data collection requirements took effect for FY 2000. States may collect additional data.
Food Stamp Quality Control (QC) Data FNS Food stamp assistance units Monthly data reported quarterly Approx. 6 months after FY end 300-1,200 per state Yes  
Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) HCFA Individuals Monthly data reported quarterly Month after reporting Full population Yes  
State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) HCFA Aggregate data Quarterly Quarter after reporting Full population Yes SCHIP is reported on MMIS for those states implementing SCHIP under Medicaid
Unemployment Insurance (UI) Data States Individuals Quarterly Quarter after reporting Full population Yes Does not include cross-state, federal or other uncovered employment.
National Directory of New Hires: New Hires Data (W4) ACF Individuals Monthly Month after reporting Full population Yes  
National Directory of New Hires: Quarterly Earnings ACF Individuals Quarterly Quarter after reporting Full population Yes