The development and assessment of census-based measures of AFDC and SSI recipiency

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Policy relevant social and economic research that involves comparing rates of public assistance receipt among various groups must rely extensively on the U.S. Census Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS) for reasons of sample size. For instance, the PUMS is the only data source that contains a sufficient number of cases to examine patterns of welfare receipt among immigrant groups disaggregated by national origin. The usage of census data, however, suffers two drawbacks. One is that the PUMS does not ascertain the program (AFDC, SSI, General Assistance) from which recipients report having received payments. The other is that little is known about the accuracy of census measures of public assistance receipt. This paper develops and presents a procedure to estimate AFDC and SSI receipt based on the correspondence between the recipient's characteristics and the eligibility criteria for these programs. The research also assesses the accuracy of estimates of the number of persons receiving any kind of cash public assistance (the presently available measure), as well as the number receiving AFDC and SSI (the new measures presented here). The results indicate that census data provide very satisfactory assessments of levels of SSI usage and assessments of levels of AFDC usage that are adequate for some analytic purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Economic and Social Measurement
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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