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Low Income Families' Utilization of the Federal "Safety Net": Individual and State-Level Predictors of TANF and Food Stamp Receipt

January 2012

Kelly M. Purtell and Elizabeth T. Gershoff, University of Texas at Austin and J. Lawrence Aber, New York University

Download '2012-04 NPC Working Paper.pdf'.


Two of the primary programs through which the federal government provides benefits to low income families are the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Food Stamp program. However, many eligible low income families do not actually receive these benefits. We combined state-level policy data with rich data on a national sample of low income families to investigate family and state-level predictors of TANF and Food Stamp receipt. Our findings indicate: 1) families experiencing more economic hardship and health challenges are more likely to receive benefits, and 2) states' coverage is associated with families' receipt of TANF, but not Food Stamps. Implications for policy and research are discussed.

Food Assistance Programs and Food Security, Social Welfare Programs and Policies