The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

How Public Program Participants Become Disconnected: The Role of Aging Out

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 2:00 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon F, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Eunhee Han, MSW, PhD Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Maria Cancian, PhD, Professor of Social Work and Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Jennifer L. Noyes, MA, Associate Director, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background and Purpose:With the shift in US welfare policy and declines in cash assistance to the poor, there has been growing interest in understanding paths to and conditions of what is becoming known as the “disconnected,” those who appear to have inadequate income sources but do not receive the available public assistance.  This study investigates the role of aging out of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Medical Assistance (MA including Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program) on being disconnected.  Eligibility for TANF and MA typically ends for a non-elderly family with minor children once the youngest child turns 18 or 19 years old, regardless of financial conditions. Both parents and their adolescent child “ageing out” of TANF or MA could face a high risk of being disconnected. To our knowledge, no existing study has addressed the conditions and program participation dynamics of these aging out families; this is partly because few national data sources provide accurate and detailed data on program participation, and do have relatively small samples of families facing the risk of aging out.

Methods:  Using the newly expanded comprehensive Wisconsin longitudinal administrative research dataset, we follow two comparable non-elderly SNAP family groups: 1) families whose youngest child was 17 (so-called a “youth”) in Wisconsin between 2001 and 2008, and 2) families including both a youth and additional younger child(ren) over 13. This paper documents and compares the extent that these two groups of families exit from TANF and MA when the youngest or the oldest child of these families turns 18 or 19 years old.  This paper also investigates the effect of aging out of TANF and MA on the probability of being disconnected using multivariate probit regression analysis. 

Results: Descriptive analysis comparing the patterns of program participation for families with a youth aging out, and families with a youth and additional younger children, demonstrates a significant effect of the age-based eligibility rules on exiting TANF and MA. Multivariate regression also suggests that aging out of TANF and MA increases the probability of exit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), which results in higher probability of disconnection for families with a youth compared to their counterparts.  

Implications: This paper highlights a population at greater risk of becoming disconnected from public assistance programs due to aging out and the importance of SNAP as a connecting program over the pre-, during, and post-recession period. This research contributes to a better understanding of the risks and challenges that families in need face and suggests implications for policy and program responses.