Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. ES 2.2 Means-tested assistance: AFDC and Food Stamps

04/01/1997

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 to needy children, and to certain others in the household of such a child.12 As a result of major welfare reform enacted in August 1996, the AFDC program has now been replaced by the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF). 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 new law includes significant new restrictions on food stamp eligibility.

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 2.2). The rate decreased slightly to 11 percent in 1989, but by 1993 had increased to 14 percent. However, by 1995, the recipiency rate dropped back to 12 percent.

More than 7 million children lived in families receiving welfare in 1979 and 1989 (see Table ES 2.2.A). By 1994, 9.5 million children were living in families receiving welfare. In 1995, the number of children on welfare dropped sharply to 8.7 million.

Administrative data show a similar rise in the number of children receiving AFDC between 1985 and 1994 (see Table ES 2.2.C). After peaking at 9.5 million in 1994, the number dropped to 9.2 million in 1995.

Children's Receipt of Food Stamps. Food stamp receipt shows a similar pattern. In both 1979 and 1989, 15 percent of all children lived in households receiving food stamps, according to survey data (see Figure ES 2.2). The proportion increased to 20 percent by 1993. In that year 14.2 million children lived in households receiving food stamps, up from 9.7 million in 1989 (see Table ES 2.2.B). However, the recipiency rate dropped to 18 percent by 1995.

Administrative data for Food Stamps also show a rise in the number of children receiving food stamps during the late 1980s and early 1990s, followed by a recent decline (see Table ES 2.2.C). According to these data, the number of children receiving Food Stamps grew from 9.9 million in 1985 to 14.4 million in 1994. By 1995, the number declined to 13.9 million, or 20.3 percent of the child population.
 

Figure ES 2.2 
Percentage of Children Under Age 18 Living in Families Receiving AFDC (or General Assistance), and in Households Receiving Food Stamps, 1979-1995 
 

FIGES2_2.GIF
Source: Estimates for 19791994 calculated by Child Trends, Inc., based on analysis of the March 1980, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. Estimates for 1995 provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

 

Table ES 2.2.A 
Percentage and Number (in thousands) of Children Under Age 18 in Families Receiving AFDC or General Assistance, 1979-1995 

 
 
1979 
1989 
1993 
1994 
1995 
 
Number (in thousands)
7,228 
7,116 
9,440 
9,463 
8,656 
Percent
12 
11 
14 
13 
12 
 
Source: Estimates for 1979 - 1994 calculated by Child Trends, Inc. Based on analysis of the March 1980, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. Estimates for 1995 provided by U.S. Census Bureau.

 

Table ES 2.2.B 
Percentage and Number (in thousands) of Children Under Age 18 in Households Receiving Food Stamps, 1979-1995
 

 
 
1979 
1989 
1993 
1994 
1995 
 
Number (in thousands)
9,336 
9,696 
14,193 
13,667 
13,115 
Percent
15 
15 
20 
19 
18 
 
Source: Estimates for 1979 - 1994 calculated by Child Trends, Inc., based on analysis of the March 1980, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. Estimates for 1995 provided by U.S. Census Bureau.

 

Table ES 2.2.C 
Percentage and Number of Children Under Age 18 Receiving AFDC or Food Stamps According to Administrative Records, 1985-1995 (number of children in thousands)
 

 
1985 
1990 
1991 
1992 
1993 
1994 
1995
 
(est)
AFDC
  Number (in thousands)
7,041 
7,620 
8,375 
9,087 
9,402 
9,464 
9,152 
Percent
11.2 
11.9 
12.9 
13.5 
13.6 
13.9 
13.4 
 
Food Stamps
  Number (in thousands)
9,906 
10,127 
11,952 
13,349 
14,196 
14,391 
13,883 
Percent
15.8 
15.8 
18.4 
20.2 
21.2 
21.2 
20.3 
 
Sources: AFDC information drawn from unpublished data, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1995 estimate calculated by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Food Stamps information drawn from calculations by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health Services, based on unpublished data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Service.

 

11 Includes "General Assistance".

12 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." In Overview of Entitlement Programs: 1994 Green Book, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives.
 

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