Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Participation in Government Programs, 2004 to 2007 and 2009 Who Gets Assistance?

July 2012
Report Number: P70-130
Jeongsoo Kim, Shelley K. Irving, and Tracy A. Loveless

This report focuses on the participation and characteristics of people who received benefits from any of the following means-tested assistance programs:

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

• General Assistance (GA)

• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps

• Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

• Medicaid

• Housing Assistance

The data come from the 2004 and 2008 Panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and cover calendar years 2004 through 2007 and 2009. SIPP is a longitudinal survey, which means that, unlike periodic point-in-time surveys such as the Current Population Survey (CPS), SIPP follows the same people over time. This longitudinal quality allows examination of the SIPP sample from two perspectives.

First, it is possible to observe the same people over a span of time. The number of months within a period of time when individuals received benefits from one or more means-tested assistance programs can be examined, and entry and exit activity for each program can be measured. For example, the number, timing, and duration of people moving into and out of a particular situation within a time period can be studied, such as the length of time an individual continuously receives program benefits.

Second, a population of interest can be analyzed at single points of time over regular intervals measuring gross activity levels. This cross-sectional perspective captures changes over time in the level of an activity, such as the proportion of the population receiving assistance from a particular program at selected points in time.

This report examines means-tested program participation rates and the extent to which the programs are used. Appendix A displays the average monthly participation rates in major means-tested programs by selected characteristics.