Understanding the AFDC/TANF Child-Only Caseload: Policies, Composition, and Characteristics in Three States. Earnings and Income


The financial situation of child-only caregivers varies greatly between parental and non-parental caregivers. This is largely due to differences in employment levels, other income, and support from other household members.

A. Employment

Non-parental caregivers, despite the fact that they are older than parental caregivers on average, are more likely to be employed (Exhibit 3.16). The vast majority of parents are not employed. This is not surprising, since:

  1. adults who are sanctioned are likely to have been sanctioned for not meeting their work requirements;
  2. SSI recipients have disabilities and may not be able to work; and
  3. non-qualified aliens may be working, but are not likely to report this work to the welfare agency.

Employment status for the non-parental caregiver is not reported in many cases. Due to the fact that TANF assistance provided to a non-parental caregiver for the child(ren) does not count the non-parental caregivers' income in benefit determination (although the children's income and resources are considered), many caseworkers do not collect employment, income, and resource information on the application.(7) For those cases where information was available or inferred, it was revealed that many non-parental caregivers are working. Younger caregivers are more likely to be working than caregivers over the age 60 (30 percent versus 12 percent of all non-parental caregiver cases in Alameda;(8) 48 percent versus 21 percent in Duval; and 53 percent versus 28 percent in Jackson).

Exhibit 3.16
Employment of Caregiver, by County and Type of Caregiver
  Alameda County Duval County Jackson County
Employment of Caregiver (%) Parent Non-Parent Parent Non-Parent Parent Non-Parent
Employed (any hours) 7.7 24.1 11.1 39.6 5.8 47.7
Not employed/Out of Labor Forcea/ 73.2 51.9 83.3 45.9 87.2 45.1
Unknown 19.1 24.1 5.6 14.5 7.0 7.2
Sample size 194 79 90 159 86 153
a/ If it was known that the caregiver was receiving SSI and no employment information questions were answered, it was assumed that the caregiver was out of the labor force.

While a large proportion of employment information is unknown, it is useful to look at the reported employment rates in order to make comparisons between parental and non-parental caregivers. The figures reveal that the difference in reported employment between parental and non-parental caregivers is striking. This is most evident in Jackson county where 6 percent of parental caregivers reported employment while 48 percent of non-parental caregivers reported employment.

In Alameda, employment status of the parent is also broken out by the reason that the parental case is child-only (Appendix Exhibit B.1). Surprisingly, the group that has the highest, reported employment rate in Alameda consists of non-qualified aliens. Over 16 percent of non-qualified alien parental caregivers in Alameda are working, compared to no SSI cases and 10 percent of sanctioned cases.

B. Household Benefits and Income

Exhibit 3.17 delineates total income (in dollars) from each source as well as the percent of income that the caregiver receives from each source. Generally, non-parental caregivers have higher total incomes, ranging from $918 in Alameda to $1,331 in Jackson, while parents receive less income per month, ranging from $756 per month in Jackson to $846 per month in Duval.

In a high-grant state like California, both parental and non-parental caregivers receive a higher percentage of income from the TANF grant (51 percent and 45 percent for parental and non-parental caregivers in Alameda) than in low-grant states such as Florida and Missouri. In addition, as compared to parental caregivers, non-parental caregivers receive a larger portion of their incomes from sources other than TANF (for example, SSI, earnings, and pensions) in all three counties. The higher percent of total income received from food stamps for parental caregivers makes up some of this difference.

Exhibit 3.17
Household Benefits and Income, by County and Type of Caregiver
Alameda County Duval County Jackson County
Benefit / Income Source Parent Non-Parent Parent Non-Parent Parent Non-Parent
Caregiver receiving (%)
Food stamps (assistance unit) 88.7 35.4 93.3 37.7 80.2 34.6
Medicaid 56.2 34.2 93.3 28.9 80.2 23.5
SSI 33.5 35.4 74.4 27.7 79.1 24.8
Household benefits and income (monthly $)
AFDC/TANF 431 415 236 264 195 187
Food stamps 160 46 189 76 118 76
Other caregiver income of knowna/ 300 805 380 774 432 1,055
Other caregiver income for allb/ 218 408 372 563 407 898
Income from other adults in HH 35 49 49 134 26 170
Total incomec/ 844 918 846 1,037 746 1,331
Percent of total income from source (%)
AFDC/TANF 51.0 45.2 27.9 25.4 26.2 14.1
Food stamps 18.9 5.0 22.4 7.3 15.8 5.7
Other caregiver income for allc/ 25.8 44.5 43.9 54.3 54.5 67.4
Income from other adults in HH 4.2 5.3 5.8 12.9 3.4 12.7
Sample size 194 79 90 159 86 153
a/  This figure (including earnings, SSI, pension, child support, etc.) calculates average "other income" only of those whose "other income" was known.

b/  This figure (including earnings, SSI, pension, child support, etc.) assumes that "other income" is equal to $0.00 for all caregivers whose other income was unknown.

c/  This figure is calculated using other caregiver income for all.

Among the parental caregivers in Alameda, SSI parents receive a smaller portion of their income from TANF (36 percent) and food stamps (11 percent), and a larger portion from "other income" (47 percent). (See Appendix Exhibit B-1.) On the other hand, the TANF and food stamp grants comprise 68 and 23 percent of an alien parent's income and 61 and 28 percent of a sanctioned parent's income, on average. Parents in sanction and alien status reported other income that comprises 10 and 7 percent of their income in Alameda.

The average food stamp benefit is substantially higher among parental cases than non-parental caregiver cases, averaging $160, $189, and $188 in Alameda, Duval, and Jackson, respectively (Exhibit 3.17). This is largely due to the fact that a larger portion of parental cases receive food stamps - 88 percent versus 36 percent. Non-parental caregivers have greater incomes making them less likely to be receiving food stamps. In addition, parental cases have a larger assistance unit and, presumably food stamp household, than non-parental caregiver cases. The average food stamp grant amounts for all non-parental caregiver cases is only $46 in Alameda and $76 in both Duval and Jackson.

Within the parental caregiver caseload, the magnitudes of the TANF and food stamp grants also vary by the type of child-only case (e.g. alien, SSI, or sanctioned). The size of these income sources is affected by a number of variables. Sanctioned cases reviewed in Alameda have fewer recipient children on average but are the group with the highest food stamp benefit amounts, receiving $190 per month, on average (Appendix Exhibit B.1). While adults who are sanctioned are not included in the TANF assistance unit, they are included in calculating the food stamp benefit. Alien cases in Alameda tend to have a larger number of recipient children and receive a higher food stamp grant, on average, than SSI cases ($161 versus $132). The food stamp calculation considers the SSI benefits, resulting in SSI recipients being eligible for smaller food stamp grants.

While few parents are working, most parental caregiver assistance units report income from sources other than TANF or food stamps. Yet, non-parental caregivers receive more income per month, on average, than parental caregivers. The fact that non-parental caregivers are more likely than parental caregivers to be employed helps explain why non-parental caregiver households have greater incomes. Parental caregivers across the counties report between $218 and $407 per month in other income whereas non-parental caregivers report between $408 and $898 per month in additional income.(9)

The trend is similar with respect to income received from other household members. Again, non-parental caregivers receive more per month from other household members than do parental caregivers. In Jackson County, for example, non-parental caregivers supplement the household's income with $170 per month from other members while parental caregivers receive only $26 per month from other household members, a difference of $144.