Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. ES 2.1 Means-Tested Assistance: AFDC(10) and Food Stamps

01/01/2000

Many poor children have depended on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the Food Stamp program for basic material needs. AFDC was a federal and state cash assistance program targeted at needy children and at certain others in these children’s households.11 Among all children under age 6 in 1982, 21 percent were on AFDC for at least 1 year over the next 10 years (see Figure ES 2.1.A). As a result of major welfare reform enacted in August 1996, the AFDC program has now been replaced by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF provides a block grant to states to design and administer their own welfare and work programs.

The Food Stamp program provides low-income households with vouchers that can be exchanged for food. The welfare reform law includes significant new restrictions on Food Stamp eligibility for immigrants who have not become U.S. citizens.

Children’s Receipt of AFDC and Other Welfare Benefits. Twelve percent of all children lived in families receiving AFDC or General Assistance in 1979, according to survey data (see Figure ES 2.1.B). The rate decreased slightly to 11 percent in 1989 but by 1993 had increased to 14 percent. However, by 1997, the recipiency rate had dropped to 9 percent.

Children’s Receipt of Food Stamps. Food Stamp receipt shows a similar pattern. The percentage of all children living in households receiving Food Stamps remained fairly constant at around 15 percent from 1979 to 1989 (see Figure ES 2.1.B). The proportion had increased to 20 percent by 1993. In that year 14.2 million children lived in households receiving Food Stamps (see Table ES 2.1.B). However, the recipiency rate had dropped back down to 15 percent by 1997.

Receipt of AFDC and Food Stamps by Race and Hispanic Origin. The percentage of children receiving AFDC and Food Stamps varies substantially by race/Hispanic origin. According to 1992 data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics,12 only 5 percent of white non-Hispanic children received AFDC and only 8 percent received Food Stamps (see Figure ES 2.1.C). In contrast, among black non-Hispanic children, 32 percent received AFDC and 42 percent received Food Stamps. Among Hispanic children, 18 percent received AFDC and 30 percent received Food Stamps.

There was also substantial variation among Hispanic children, depending on their descent. Among children of Cuban descent, only 8 percent received AFDC and 18 percent received Food Stamps. In contrast, among children of Puerto Rican descent, 28 percent received AFDC and 48 percent received Food Stamps. Among children of Mexican descent, 15 percent received AFDC and 30 percent received Food Stamps.

Figure ES 2.1.A Percentage of children under age 6 in the United States receiving any AFDCa benefit, by number of years and by race:b 1982

Figure ES 2.1.A Percentage of children under age 6 in the United States receiving any AFDCa benefit, by number of years and by race:b 1982

a Receipt of AFDC by families of children who were under age 6 in 1982 was monitored for the decade beginning in 1982 and ending in 1991. The figure displays the percentage who participated in AFDC by number of years participating over the 10-year period (minimum is zero; maximum is 10 years).

b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Estimates for blacks and nonblacks include persons of Hispanic origin. Source: Estimates supplied by Greg J. Duncan, Northwestern University, based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.


Table ES 2.1.A Percentage and number (in thousands) of children in the United States under age 18 in families receiving AFDC or General Assistance: Selected years, 1979-1997

  1979 1989 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
Number (in thousands) 7,228 7,116 9,440 9,463 8,656 7,490 6,201
Percent 12 11 14 13 12 11 9

Sources: Estimates for 1979-1994 calculated by Child Trends based on analysis of the March 1980, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. Estimates for 1995-1997 provided by U.S. Bureau of the Census.


Figure ES 2.1.B Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 living in families receiving AFDC or General Assistance, and in households receiving Food Stamps: Selected years, 1979-1997

Figure ES 2.1.B Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 living in families receiving AFDC or General Assistance, and in households receiving Food Stamps: Selected years, 1979-1997

Sources: Estimates for 1979-1994 calculated by Child Trends based on analysis of the March 1980, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. Estimates for 1995-1997 provided by U.S. Bureau of the Census.


Table ES 2.1.B Percentage and number (in thousands) of children in the United States under age 18 in households receiving Food Stamps: Selected years, 1979-1997

  1979 1989 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
Number (in thousands) 9,336 9,696 14,193 13,677 13,115 12,272 10,987
Percent 15 15 20 19 18 17 15

Sources: Estimates for 1979-1994 calculated by Child Trends based on analysis of the March 1980, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. Estimates for 1995-1997 provided by U.S. Bureau of the Census.


Figure ES 2.1.C Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 in households receiving AFDC and Food Stamps, by race/ethnicitya and by descent: 1992

Figure ES 2.1.C Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 in households receiving AFDC and Food Stamps, by race/ethnicitya and by descent: 1992

a Estimates for Hispanic children exclude those migrating to the United States after 1990.

Source: Estimates supplied by Sandra Hofferth, University of Michigan, based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.


10 Includes General Assistance.

11 Needy children include those “who have been deprived of parental support or care because their father or mother is absent from the home continuously, is incapacitated, is deceased or is unemployed.” See Overview of Entitlement Programs: 1994 Green Book. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means.

12 The Panel Study of Income Dynamics excludes children who migrated to the United States after 1990. Consequently, it understates recent migrants’ share of the Hispanic population. This is likely to lead to a lower estimate of receipt of transfers for Hispanics than a more representative survey such as the Current Population Survey.

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