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Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Program Participation, 1992-1993. Who Gets Assistance?

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Report Number P70-58

Introduction

How to improve the wellfare system has been the subject of intense debate in recent years and many States are modiflying their programs substantially under waivers granted by Federal Government. These changes and proposed ones have intensified the interest in information on people who participate in welfare programs. This report uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to examine who recieves assitance from the major means-tested government programs—namely, Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC), General Assistance, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and housing assistance—over the 28 month period from October 1991 through January 1994.1

Because SIPP provides monthly information on the program participation of individuals, as well as on many demographic and socioeconomic characteristics that can vary over time such as family and labor force status, differences in patterns of participation can be analyzed.2 Specifically, this report examines similarities and differences in: (1) average monthly program participation in 1993; (2) the percent of people who participated in at least one of these programs at some time during the 1992-1993 period; (3) the percent who participated in at least one program in all 24 months of 1992 and 1993; and (4) the length of time participants stayed in the programs (the duration of the spell).

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1 Means-tested programs are those that require the income and/or assets of the individual or family to be below specified thresholds in order to qualify for benefits. These programs provide cash and noncash assistance to portions of the low-income population.

2 Efforts were made during the life of the panel to follow people who moved to ensure that the sample remained representative of the noninstitutional population of the United States.

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