Distributed July 17, 2001
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Tracie Sweeney




R.I. welfare caseloads drop, are concentrated in four geographic areas

Researchers at Brown University used state welfare caseload data from the Rhode Island Department of Human Services along with population figures from the U.S. Census to study welfare trends and implications for cities and towns. Among the conclusions: Welfare caseloads are down since the implementation of state welfare reform in 1997, and cases are concentrated in Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -Researchers at Brown University studying welfare caseloads have found that state cases have dropped since 1997 and are concentrated in four geographic areas.

Darrell M. West, director of Brown's Taubman Center for Public Policy, and Jack Combs, the center's research administrator, examined Rhode Island Department of Human Services caseload data from the past decade. These data contain information about who has been receiving family assistance, food stamps and Medicaid. The data were combined with recently released U.S. Census figures to develop profiles of the recipient population statewide as well as in Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns.

In 1996, the state passed the Family Independence Act designed to reformulate the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and replaced it with the Family Independence Program (FIP). Among the features of the new law were five-year limits on cash assistance for adults (children can continue to receive benefits); work requirements with assistance such as child care and health care; and education, training and job placement assistance. Households must have children to be eligible to receive FIP benefits.

To see how the state is doing, the researchers analyzed data to examine how caseloads have changed, who remains on welfare, and how caseloads vary by city and age. Overall in Rhode Island, welfare cases are down 10 percent over the last year, 18 percent since FIP was implemented in May 1997, and 25 percent since 1996. Whereas the state had 20,667 households on assistance in 1996 and 18,904 households in 1997, now it has 15,545 households on assistance. Overall, a total of 42,837 Rhode Island individuals currently receive public assistance, or an average of 2.76 individuals per household on assistance. Nearly 4 percent of Rhode Island households receive FIP benefits. Seven and one-half percent of households receive food stamp assistance.

Among current FIP recipients, the mean length of time on government assistance is 5.3 years. Sixteen percent have been on assistance for less than one year, 12 percent have received assistance for one year, 10 percent have gotten assistance for two years, 8 percent have received help for three years, 7 percent have been on assistance for four years, and 6 percent have gotten assistance for five years. The remainder (41 percent) have received assistance for more than five years. Half of these (20 percent) have received government assistance for 10 years or more.

The majority (59 percent) of current FIP recipients have been on public assistance one time before their current episode. Twenty-four percent have had two previous episodes on public assistance, 10 percent have had three previous episodes, and 7 percent have been on and off welfare four or more times.

Around 70 percent of households receiving FIP help are in Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket, even though these areas comprise only 29 percent of the state's households, based on current Census figures.

Of the total number of 42,837 individuals receiving government assistance, 29,261 (or 68 percent) are under the age of 18, and 13,576 (32 percent) are adults. Nearly 12 percent of children in Rhode Island receive public assistance, compared to 1.7 percent of the adult population. Thirty-two percent of children in Providence are on public assistance, compared to 31 percent of those in Central Falls, 20 percent of those in Woonsocket, 18 percent of those in Pawtucket and 18 percent of those in Newport.

Fifteen percent of children in Rhode Island are on food stamps, or a total of 38,223 children. This includes 40 percent of children in Providence, 39 percent in Central Falls, 26 percent in Woonsocket, 23 percent in Pawtucket, and 22 percent in Newport.

Twenty-eight percent of children in Rhode Island receive medical assistance from the government. This includes 65 percent of children in Providence, 64 percent in Central Falls, 40 percent in Woonsocket, 39 percent in Pawtucket and 37 percent in Newport.

For more information on this study, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163. A copy of the full report with detailed breakdowns by cities and towns in Rhode Island is available at www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center.