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Changing Participation in Food Assistance Programs Among Low-Income Children After Welfare Reform

by Jessica Todd, Constance Newman, and Michele Ver Ploeg

Economic Research Report No. (ERR-92) 38 pp, February 2010

Cover Image for ERR92 In 1996, the safety net for poor households with children fundamentally changed when Federal legislation replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This study investigates participation in, and benefits received from, AFDC/TANF and food assistance programs, before and after the legislation, for children in low-income households (income below 300 percent of the Federal poverty line). The results show that, between 1990 and 2004, the share of children receiving food stamp benefits declined, most notably among children in the poorest households (income below 50 percent of the Federal poverty line). The share of children receiving benefits from the school meals programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) rose, mainly among children in low-income households with income above the Federal poverty line. Overall, the share of children in households that received benefits from AFDC/TANF or food assistance programs grew from 35 percent to 52 percent. However, the net result of these changes is that average total inflation-adjusted household benefits from all programs examined declined. The decline was largest among children in the poorest households.

Keywords: Food Stamp Program, food assistance, welfare reform, WIC, school meals, TANF, AFDC, multiple program use

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Last updated: Sunday, May 27, 2012

For more information contact: Jessica Todd, Constance Newman, and Michele Ver Ploeg