Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Food Stamps and Medical Assistance Receipt After Leaving by Quarters

06/01/2002

Tables 13-9 and 13-10 examine food stamps and medical assistance benefit receipt among leavers and stayers. Welfare leavers may change their behaviors for a couple of reasons. Leavers' income also may increase after leaving if they earn more or if they marry, so much so that they are no longer eligible for food stamps. Leavers also may find jobs that provide health insurance. Alternatively, even though food stamp and medical assistance eligibility rules did not change much with waivers and PRWORA, recipients may be confused about the rules and think they are no longer eligible for food stamps or that work requirements and time limits for cash benefits also apply to food stamps and medical assistance receipt.

Table 13-9 shows the percentage of leavers and stayers that received food stamps on a quarterly basis after leaving welfare, or since the third quarter of 1996 for stayers. The first two columns show that the majority of the caseload (90 percent of leavers and 94 percent of stayers) received benefits in the quarter in which they exited. This does not vary greatly across past welfare receipt or work history. However, the percentage of leavers who received food stamps drops off dramatically in the first quarter after exit to 52 percent overall, and continues to drop such that only 37 percent received food stamps in the fifth quarter after exit. Although the number of stayers receiving food stamps also drops through the exit period, most stayers still receive food stamps.

TABLE 13-9
Food Stamps Receipt After Leaving: Leavers versus Stayers
  Percent Receiving Food Stamps by Quarter After Initial Exit (or since 3rd quarter 1996 for stayers)
Exit Quarter 1st Q Postexit 2nd Q Postexit 3rd Q Postexit 4th Q Postexit 5th Q Postexit
S L S L S L S L S L S L
Overall 94.3 90.3 93.4 52.0 87.1 46.2 81.7 43.0 77.2 40.3 72.6 37.4
By past welfare receipt history (7/89 to 7/95)
Short-termer 93.9 89.4 92.9 45.4 82.9 39.1 75.0 35.6 69.2 32.7 63.6 30.3
Long-termer 94.6 91.3 93.7 57.8 89.1 52.0 84.8 48.6 81.0 46.6 76.8 43.3
Cycler 93.5 89.9 92.5 52.4 83.2 48.0 76.4 45.6 70.7 42.0 65.3 38.5
By past earnings history Percent of quarters with earnings (1/89 to 7/95):
Never worked 92.6 89.1 91.5 47.2 86.5 40.8 82.8 37.6 78.8 36.6 74.4 33.9
0 < x <= 25% 94.6 90.6 93.8 52.7 88.1 48.2 82.8 44.8 78.7 43.0 74.9 40.4
25 < x <= 50% 95.6 90.1 94.6 52.9 87.5 47.7 81.8 45.1 77.3 41.1 72.0 38.4
50 < x <= 75% 95.0 90.7 94.0 52.9 85.3 45.2 77.4 41.4 71.8 38.9 65.4 34.8
More than 75% 93.1 91.3 92.9 52.0 82.9 45.7 74.4 41.6 67.3 25.9 59.9 34.7
Note: S=Stayer. L=Leaver.

These results show some clear differences between the leavers and stayers. Recall that the caseload in Wisconsin dropped dramatically during the years 1995-1997, when we observed leavers and stayers. Although many of the stayers may have left welfare after 1996, this table shows that despite this, most stayers continue to use food stamps while most leavers do not. Acs and Loprest (this volume: Chapter 12) found quite a bit of variation in food stamps receipt after leaving welfare for the 11 reviewed studies. They found that 45 to 100 percent of leavers received food stamps in the first quarter after exit and that between 24 and 67 percent received food stamps any time in the year after exit, although most studies found between 55 and 70 percent received food stamps at least once in the exit period. In a study based on survey data from three cities (Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio), Moffitt and Roff (2000) found that 38 percent of leavers (or those who were on TANF at some point 2 years before being interviewed but not at the time of the interview) received food stamps when interviewed, although this varied across the three cities.

Table 13-9 also shows food stamps receipt stratified by past welfare receipt history. Looking only at leavers, we see wide differences between short-termers and long-termers. In the first quarter after exit, 45 percent of short-termers received food stamps compared to 58 percent of long termers, which translates into a difference of nearly 30 percent. This gap persists throughout the postexit period. The percentage of cyclers who receive food stamps is consistently between the percentage of short-termers and long-termers who do. Moffitt and Roff (2000) divided their sample into "dependency" leavers and "non-dependency" leavers, where dependency leavers were dependent on welfare for part of the study period but were later off welfare, and nondependency leavers were either not dependent on welfare, or did not leave welfare. In contrast to findings here, they found few differences in usage of food stamps by dependency leavers, compared with nondependency leavers.

TABLE 13-10
Quarterly Medical Assistance Receipt After Leaving: Leavers versus Stayers
  Percent Receiving Medical Assistance by Quarter After Initial Exit (or since 3rd quarter 1996 for stayers)
1st Q Postexit 2nd Q Postexit 3rd Q Postexit 4th Q Postexit 5th Q PostExit
S L S L S L S L S L
Overall 99.1 75.7 96.6 69.1 93.0 65.7 90.1 63.0 86.5 54.5
By past welfare receipt history (7/89 to 7/95)
Short-termer 99.8 71.5 94.5 64.0 89.1 60.2 84.7 57.0 80.2 48.9
Long-termer 100.0 79.5 97.6 73.8 94.7 70.5 92.4 68.0 89.4 59.2
Cycler 99.8 75.9 95.5 69.3 90.9 66.4 87.1 64.1 81.5 55.6
By past earnings history: percent of quarters with earnings (1/89 to 7/95)
Never worked 99.8 62.6 96.6 56.3 93.5 53.3 90.6 51.0 87.3 45.5
0 < x <= 25% 99.9 74.5 96.7 68.0 93.2 65.0 90.5 62.7 87.5 56.0
25 < x <= 50% 100.0 79.3 96.9 73.0 93.3 69.5 90.6 66.3 86.6 57.4
50 < x <= 75% 100.0 80.4 95.9 73.0 91.2 68.7 87.7 65.1 82.8 55.5
More than 75% of qtrs 99.7 79.2 96.2 72.7 91.9 69.3 86.5 41.4 80.4 52.9
Note: S=Stayer. L=Leaver.

Those who never worked are the least likely to use food stamps after leaving. By the fifth quarter after exit, only 34 percent of those who had never worked received food stamps. This is in contrast to 40 percent of those who worked, up to 25 percent of the quarters prior to leaving. Again, this is a puzzling result that may be driven by the composition of the group that had never worked as described earlier. Excluding those who had never worked, more work experience is associated with less food stamps.

Medical assistance receipt by any member of the assistance unit after leaving is reported in Table 13-10.(9) Like food stamps usage, medical assistance usage by leavers declines steadily through the post-exit quarters, while stayers' usage decreases much less substantially. By the fifth quarter after exit, 55 percent of leavers still received medical assistance, while 87 percent of stayers did. Medical assistance receipt also varies substantially by past welfare receipt history. Short-termers are consistently less likely to receive medical assistance after leaving than long-termers and cyclers. By the fifth quarter after exit, 49 percent of short-termers receive medical assistance and 59 percent of long-termers did. Cyclers are between these two; 56 percent received medical assistance after leaving in the fifth quarter. Moffitt and Roff (2000) found that 69 percent of dependency leavers received medical assistance after leaving welfare and compared with 67 percent of nondependency leavers.

Those who never worked are the least likely to receive medical assistance compared to those with at least some work experience. Of those with some work experience, no clear pattern in medical assistance receipt and work experience emerges. In the first three quarters after exit, those who worked the least were the least likely to receive medical assistance. In the fourth and fifth quarters after exit, those with the most work experience were least likely to receive benefits.

Table 13-11 reports the percentage of stayers and leavers who received neither AFDC, food stamps, nor medical assistance in the first quarter after they left welfare and again in the fifth quarter after leaving. In the first quarter after leaving welfare, a large majority of cases still received food stamps or medical assistance benefits. Only 22 percent of leavers did not receive food stamps, medical assistance, nor AFDC. All those who stayed on welfare received at least one of these three benefits.

TABLE 13-11
Public Assistance Receipt After Leaving
  Percent Not Receiving AFDC, Food Stamps or Medical Assistance in the First Quarter After Initial Exit (3rd quarter 1996 for stayers)
Stayers Leavers
Overall 0.0 22.2
By past welfare receipt history(7/89 to 7/95)
Short-termer 0.0 26.8
Long-termer 0.0 18.2
Cycler 0.0 21.7
By past earnings history:Percent of quarters with earnings (1/89 to 7/95)
Never worked 0.0 33.7
0 < x <= 25% 0.0 23.4
25 < x <= 50% 0.0 19.0
50 < x <= 75% 0.0 17.8
More than 75% of qtrs 0.0 19.0
  Percent Not Receiving AFDC, Food Stamps or Medical Assistance in the Fifth Quarter after Initial Exit (3rd quarter 1997 for stayers)
Overall 27.3 43.2
By past welfare receipt history(7/89 to 7/95)
Short-termer 18.5 49.3
Long-termer 9.7 38.3
Cycler 17.1 41.7
By past earnings history Percent of quarters with earnings (1/89 to 7/95)
Never worked 11.4 51.0
0 < x <= 25% 11.5 41.8
25 < x <= 50% 12.9 40.6
50 < x <= 75% 15.9 42.7
More than 75% of qtrs 18.7 45.2
  Mean Number of Months Received Food Stamps After Leaving (or since July 1996 for stayers)
Overall 10.29 (4.50) 7.03 (7.23)
By past welfare receipt history (7/89 to 7/95)
Short-termer 9.35 (4.83) 5.76 (6.72)
Long-termer 10.76 (4.28) 8.04 (7.48)
Cycler 9.40 (4.67) 7.36 (7.27)
By past earnings history: Percent of quarters with earnings (1/89 to 7/95)
Never worked 10.57 (4.63) 6.38 (7.24)
0 < x <= 25% 10.48 (4.38) 7.37 (7.30)
25 < x <= 50% 10.20 (4.39) 7.18 (7.19)
50 < x <= 75% 9.61 (4.63) 6.79 (7.14)
More than 75% of qtrs 9.07 (4.74) 6.90 (7.17)
Note: Standard deviations reported in parentheses.

In the fifth quarter after leaving welfare, the percentage of leavers who no longer received benefits nearly doubled, as 43 percent received neither AFDC, food stamps, nor medical assistance. In contrast, of those who stayed on AFDC, only 27 percent were not receiving any of these three public assistance benefits. Cancian et al. (1999) found that only 11 percent of welfare leavers did not receive any of these benefits in the first quarter and that only 30 percent did not receive any benefits in the fifth quarter after exit. Differences between the Cancian et al. (1999) results and the results presented here probably can be attributed to the exclusion of disappearers in the Cancian study.

To summarize Tables 13-8 to 13-11, receipt of public assistance benefits after leaving varies substantially across welfare receipt history, although it does not vary as much across earnings history. Short-term welfare users seem to be more independent of public assistance after leaving than long-term users. Only 18 percent of long-termers did not receive public assistance in the first quarter after leaving welfare compared to 27 percent of short-termers. Again, cyclers were in between; 22 percent of cyclers did not receive assistance in the first quarter after leaving welfare. A similar pattern holds for the fifth quarter after leaving welfare, but the differences across short-term and long-term status are even more pronounced. There is nearly a 30-percent difference in the proportion who do not receive benefits (49 percent for short-termers and 38 percent for long-termers). Again, this table shows wide differences in outcomes across different types of leavers. Cancian et al. (1999) also found that those with shorter spells were significantly less likely to return to TANF after leaving. Moffitt and Roff (2000) found few differences in public assistance benefit receipt between dependency leavers and nondependency leavers, although their measures of dependency are quite different than that of the short-termer, long-termer, and cycler distinctions made here.

Public benefit receipt of those who left welfare is also reported by past earning histories. Results here are not as anticipated. It was expected that those who had the most work experience would have better labor market outcomes after leaving than those with less work experience, and subsequently, would be less likely to rely on public assistance benefits. Instead, results in Table 13-11 show that leavers who had never worked prior to July 1995 were the least likely to receive public assistance benefits after leaving. This is consistent with findings in Tables 13-9 and 13-10. Again, the mixed composition of this group with no prior work experience drives these unusual findings. In both the first quarter and the fifth quarter after exit, there is not a clear pattern in the percentage not receiving public benefits by work experience among those who had worked prior to exit. In the first quarter after exit, those who had worked the least (0-25 percent of the quarters) were the most likely to not receive benefits. Those who worked 50-75 percent of the quarters were the least likely to receive benefits. In the fifth quarter after exit, of those with prior work experience, those with the most work experience were the least likely to receive benefits. Those who worked 25-50 percent of the quarters prior to the exit period had the highest benefit receipt rates.

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