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Chapter 3. Employment-Related Characteristics

Indicator 32. Receiving Public Assistance

Persons living in poverty may receive some form of government public assistance, which includes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (and its predecessor Aid to Families with Dependent Children [AFDC]), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and veterans' payments. In 2009, about 2.9 million 15- to 24-year-olds (7 percent) lived in households that received some form of public assistance, compared to 1.7 million (4 percent) in 1980. However, the number of 15- to 24-year-olds living in households that received public assistance peaked in 1995 (4.4 million, or 12 percent), prior to the implementation of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of youth and young adults receiving public assistance remained between 6 and 7 percent.

The percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds living in households that received public assistance varied by sex and race/ethnicity. In 2009, a higher percentage of females (7 percent) lived in households that received public assistance than did males (6 percent). The percentage of females living in households that received public assistance was also higher than that of males in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2003, and 2008. During the peak in 1995, about 14 percent of females lived in households that received public assistance, compared to 10 percent of males. Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of males living in households that received public assistance remained between 6 and 7 percent. During the same time period, the percentage of females living in households that received public assistance ranged between 6 and 8 percent.

In 2009, a higher percentage of 15- to 24-year-old American Indians/Alaska Natives (17 percent) and Blacks (15 percent) were living in households that received public assistance than were Whites (4 percent), Asians/Pacific Islanders (7 percent), and Hispanics (8 percent) in the same age group. Between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of 15- to 24-year-old Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics living in households that received public assistance decreased.

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32a. Snapshot: Receiving Public Assistance by Educational Attainment

This snapshot focuses on 18- to 24-year-olds and their receipt of public assistance by educational attainment. In 2009, about 7 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were living in households that received public assistance. In general, lower public assistance rates were associated with higher levels of education. For instance, a higher percentage of young adults without a high school diploma were living in households that received public assistance (9 percent) than were those who had completed a bachelor's or higher degree (2 percent).

This pattern generally persisted across sex and race/ethnicity. For both young adult males and females, about 9 percent without a high school diploma were living in households that received public assistance in 2009, compared with 2 percent of males and females with a bachelor's or higher degree. Higher public assistance rates were generally associated with lower educational attainment for Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.

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