TABLE 9–2 AFDC/TANF and Food Stamp Aggregate Benefits Paid Based on Administrative Data Compared to Estimates from Current Population Survey (CPS) (in billions of dollars)

 

AFDC/TANF Benefits

Food Stamp Benefits

 

CPS Data

Administrative Data

Ratio (%)

CPS Data

Administrative Data

Ratio (%)

1990

14.259

18.855

75.6

10.335

13.556

76.2

1991

15.554

20.804

74.8

12.373

16.551

74.8

1992

15.362

22.258

69.0

13.394

20.014

66.9

1993

17.540

22.307

78.6

15.010

22.253

67.5

1994

17.145

22.753

75.4

15.317

22.701

67.5

1995

15.725

21.524

73.1

14.542

22.712

64.0

1996

13.494

19.710

68.5

14.195

22.440

63.3

1997

10.004

15.893

62.9

12.274

19.570

62.7

 

SOURCE: Primus et al. (1999:65), which in turn gives the sources, as Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture administrative records and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tabulations of CPS data.

TANF (or family assistance) benefits also is consistent with Roemer’s (2000: Table 3b) calculations from the CPS for 1990 through 1996. Interestingly, the apparent decline in AFDC/TANF coverage does not show up in the SIPP, though the SIPP appears to capture only about three-quarters of aggregate benefits.

Polivka (1998) compares the monthly average number of AFDC recipients in the March CPS to the monthly average reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (prior to quality control). She finds there has been a modest decrease in the proportion of total months on AFDC as measured in the CPS. The ratio of the CPS estimated to the administrative count (excluding Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico) is 83.0 (1989), 86.7 (1990), 86.0 (1991), 82.5 (1992), 84.2 (1993), 78.5 (1994), 75.5 (1995), and 79.6 (1996). The timing of the drop in the ratio corresponds to changes in the March CPS survey instrument. Taken together, the Primus et al. (1999) and Polivka (1998) results suggest that the decline in benefits reported in the CPS results from both a reduction in the coverage of families receiving AFDC and from an underrepresentation of benefits conditional on receipt, though the second factor seems quantitatively more important than the first.

The third potential weakness of national surveys is that there is little or no “cost” to respondents of misreporting of income, employment, or other circumstances.10

10  

Shroder and Martin (1996), for example, show subsidized housing (broadly defined) is badly reported on surveys, including the American Housing Survey (and presumably the SIPP). An underlying problem is that the phrase “public housing” means different things to different people, ranging from only projects to any kind of subsidized housing.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement