Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors: Thirteenth Report to Congress. Chapter II. Indicators of Dependence


Following the format of the previous annual reports to Congress, Chapter II presents summary data related to indicators of dependence. These indicators differ from other welfare statistics because of their emphasis on welfare dependence, rather than simply welfare receipt.

As discussed in Chapter I, the Advisory Board on Welfare Indicators suggested that families be considered dependent if more than 50 percent of their total income in a one-year period comes from cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (which replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Furthermore, this welfare income was not to be associated with work activities. Existing data from administrative records and national surveys, however, do not generally distinguish welfare benefits received in conjunction with work from benefits received without work. Thus, it was not possible to construct one single indicator of dependence that captured fully the Advisory Board’s recommendation; that is, one indicator based on the percentage of income from means-tested assistance only if this income is not associated with work activities. As discussed in Chapter I, we adopt the following definition of welfare dependence among individuals in families14 for use in this report:

Welfare dependence is the proportion of all individuals in families that receive more than half of their total family income in one year from TANF, SNAP and/or SSI.

The ten indicators in Chapter II were selected to provide information about the range and depth of dependence as proposed by the Advisory Board, including indicators that measure the presence of employment activities. This chapter focuses on recipients of three major means-tested cash and nutritional assistance programs: cash assistance through the AFDC and TANF programs, benefits under the Food Stamp Program and the SNAP, and SSI benefits for elderly and disabled recipients. For some indicators, summary data and characteristics are provided for all recipients, not just those defined as welfare-dependent. While a number of indicators focus on the percentage of recipients’ income from means-tested assistance, other indicators focus on presence of work activities at the same time as welfare receipt.

14 Appendix D provides more information on the use of individuals, rather than families or households, as the unit of analysis for most of the statistics in this report.

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