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

02/01/2000

In 1994, when the national AFDC caseload peaked, 5.0 million families were receiving cash assistance; in 1998, 3.2 million families were on the welfare rolls, a 37 percent decline. Almost all states or regions experienced a decline from 1994 to 1998, although some states experienced a more rapid decline than others did (see Exhibit 1.1, Columns (A) and (D)). This trend can be attributed in part to a movement promoting the reform of the nation's welfare system that began over twenty years ago and which culminated with the 1996 welfare reform legislation. The focus on reducing welfare dependency by encouraging welfare recipients to work spurred some TANF recipients to leave welfare for work and others to leave to avoid the more mandatory requirements.

The decline in caseloads can also be attributed to the economic expansion experienced during the mid-1990s. The economic growth the nation experienced undoubtedly allowed more welfare recipients to leave welfare for employment and allowed others to maintain employment and not enter the welfare rolls.

Exhibit 1.1
AFDC/TANF Caseloads in 1994 and 1998
State Fiscal Year 1994 Fiscal Year 1998
Total AFDC Families Total Child-Only Families Child-Only/ Total Families (%) Total TANF Families Total Child-Only Families Child-Only/ Total Families (%)
  (A) (B) (C) (D) (E) (F)
U.S. Total 5,046,263 868,646 17.2 3,089,492a/ 723,891 23.4
 
Alabama 50,340 16,140 32.1 23,792 11,081 46.6
Alaska 12,759 836 6.6 10,210 1,059 10.4
Arizona 71,984 15,145 21.0 40,163 12,441 31.0
Arkansas 26,014 6,866 26.4 13,844 5,538 40.0
California 908,999 201,288 22.1 707,062 180,755 25.6
Colorado 41,614 6,367 15.3 21,194 5,835 27.5
Connecticut 59,201 6,530 11.0 47,188 8,040 17.0
Delaware 11,460 2,783 24.3 7,568 2,488 32.9
District of Columbia 27,117 4,476 16.5 21,263 2,752 12.9
Florida 247,087 47,852 19.4 111,143 40,814 36.7
Georgia 141,451 26,595 18.8 78,196 29,208 37.4
Guam 1,955 79 4.0 2,075 206 9.9
Hawaii 20,420 1,806 8.8 17,031 2,085 12.2
Idaho 8,676 1,446 16.7 1,860 798 42.9
Illinois 240,319 32,117 13.4 170,917 24,858 14.5
Indiana 73,803 10,408 14.1 39,679 4,730 11.9
Iowa 39,555 5,287 13.4 25,167 4,790 19.0
Kansas 30,102 4,146 13.8 13,914 4,256 30.6
Kentucky 79,840 14,751 18.5 52,645 15,697 29.8
Louisiana 86,915 19,379 22.3 47,916 11,985 25.0
Maine 22,934 1,565 6.8 15,331 3,135 20.4
Maryland 80,123 12,064 15.1 47,564 10,968 23.1
Massachusetts 111,783 14,911 13.3 66,409 15,670 23.6
Michigan 223,950 21,958 9.8 123,693 21,556 17.4
Minnesota 62,979 6,449 10.2 48,464 6,939 14.3
Mississippi 56,785 14,941 26.3 23,631 9,596 40.6
Missouri 92,110 12,215 13.3 60,074 14,134 23.5
Montana 11,908 826 6.9 7,275 1,069 14.7
Nebraska 15,934 4,069 25.5 13,374 3,152 23.6
Nevada 14,047 3,455 24.6 10,383 3,343 32.2
New Hampshire 11,475 1,506 13.1 6,295 1,559 24.8
New Jersey 122,427 20,117 16.4 78,143 16,782 21.5
New Mexico 33,633 5,321 15.8 21,363 3,248 15.2
New York 454,951 61,976 13.6 336,857 51,145 15.2
North Carolina 131,220 26,134 19.9 76,337 27,535 36.1
North Dakota 5,877 527 9.0 3,275 734 22.4
Ohio 250,208 43,595 17.4 140,286 35,417 25.2
Oklahoma 46,971 6,410 13.6 24,135 6,852 28.4
Oregon 42,135 8,010 19.0 18,898 4,014 21.2
Pennsylvania 210,155 24,665 11.7 134,995 25,773 19.1
Puerto Rico 58,827 6,711 11.4 -- c/ --
Rhode Island 22,654 2,400 10.6 19,229 2,529 13.2
South Carolina 51,925 15,341 29.5 25,293 8,673 34.3
South Dakota 6,926 1,507 21.8 3,851 1,452 37.7
Tennessee 110,766 19,466 17.6 57,185 17,955 31.4
Texas 283,744 53,510 18.9 145,232 35,747 24.6
Utah 17,801 2,684 15.1 -- b/ --
Vermont 9,883 748 7.6 7,366 807 11.0
Virgin Islands 1,098 103 9.4 -- b/ --
Virginia 74,818 16,249 21.7 42,718 9,874 23.1
Washington 102,952 15,120 14.7 77,762 14,241 18.3
West Virginia 40,729 5,420 13.3 -- b/ --
Wisconsin 77,188 13,712 17.8 -- c/ --
Wyoming 5,739 662 11.5 1,247 579 46.4
a/  The total number of TANF families in 1998 is 3,175,646. The total does not include the five states/regions for which child-only caseload data are not reported or considered unreliable.

b/  Data not reported.

c/  Data reported, but not reliable.

Source:  Department of Health and Human Services, ACF, Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of AFDC Recipients, 1994 and Characteristics of Financial Circumstances of TANF Recipients, 1998.

Finally, federal welfare waivers granted to states during the 1990s encouraged states to test a variety of reform strategies, including strategies focused on work requirements, time-limited assistance, child support enforcement, and parental responsibility. During the Clinton Administration, federal welfare waivers were granted to 43 states.(7) Many of the states that had received waivers between 1993 and 1996 were the same states that experienced significant declines in their welfare caseload numbers. Thus, welfare caseload decline could be attributed in part to welfare waiver implementation.