Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors: Fourteenth Report to Congress. Chapter I. Introduction and Overview


This 2015 report provides data on measures of welfare recipiency, dependence, and predictors of welfare dependence.  The Welfare Indicators Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-432) directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publish an annual report on welfare dependency.  The Welfare Indicators Act further specified that a bipartisan Advisory Board on Welfare Indicators be established to provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary on the development of indictors and the development and presentation of annual reports required under the legislation.  The Board assisted the Secretary in defining welfare dependence, developing indicators of welfare dependence, recipiency and associated risk factors, and choosing appropriate data.

The purpose of this report is to address questions concerning the extent to which American families depend on income from welfare programs.  Under the Welfare Indicators Act, HHS was directed to address the rate of welfare dependence, the degree and duration of welfare recipiency and dependence, and predictors of welfare dependence.  The Act further specified that analyses of means-tested assistance should include benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (which replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program),6 the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly the Food Stamp Program).7 In this report we include information on cash assistance under the TANF and SSI programs and the cash value of food assistance benefits under SNAP.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 included provisions that would change (in most cases temporarily) some aspects of these three programs; these changes are discussed below.

This 2015 report, the fourteenth in the series, provides updated measures through 2012 for dependency measures based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement.  Data are available through 2012 for the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) measures (based on the 2008 to 2012 SIPP panel) and through 2008 for the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) measures.

6 The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193) repealed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and created a block grant program of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in its place.  The mandatory start date for TANF was July 1, 1997, but most states made the transition from AFDC before that date.  Throughout the report we use AFDC/TANF to refer to cash assistance benefits received under these two programs.

7 The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246) re-named the Food Stamp Program as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as of October 1, 2008.  The name change had no effect on the type of benefits or how they are made available to eligible households.


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