Percent of Families Eligible for TANF Who Are Receiving It Hits All-Time Low in 2013

The Department of Health and Human Services annual report on “Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors” was just released a few weeks ago. In it they use administrative records and survey data that has been corrected for underreporting of income to estimate the percentage of families eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits (as well as other programs) who are receiving it. Here we include figure 8 from the new report, which shows that the take-up rate among families eligible for TANF hit an all-time low in 2013, at 30.7%. That’s a drop from 84.3% in 1995.

Thus, we can confirm it is not a matter of families rising above deep poverty that has spurred the declines in TANF alone. Much of the drop in the TANF caseload is related to a 63.6% drop in the proportion of eligible families who actually receiving benefits. Note that this doesn’t account for the fact that many states have tightened their eligibility requirements over this time.

 - Luke Shaefer