Trends in Long-Term Welfare Dependence
During the period 1999 to 2008, young children (ages five and younger in 1999) whose families received welfare benefits were much less likely to receive support from the program for many years, and more likely to receive benefits for just one or two of those years, compared with the period 1969 to 1978. From 1969 to 1978, 33 percent of children ages five and younger in 1969 received benefits for less than three years, 28 percent received benefits for three to five years, and 38 percent received welfare payments for six or more of those years. Between 1989 and 1998, the proportion receiving benefits for one or two years increased slightly, to 40 percent, while those receiving benefits for six or more years decreased slightly, to 32 percent. By 1999-2008, only eight percent of children received benefits for six or more of those ten years, while 73 percent received benefits for less than three. (Figure 1)
Even for those children in TANF for more than three years, that time may not have been in a single block. In 2004, Nearly half (48 percent) of spells in TANF among children under six lasted four months or less, and another 22 percent lasted between five and twelve months. Eighty-two percent of spells in TANF for that age group lasted less than 20 months.