The number of households that received any public assistance or welfare payments in the past 12 months, expressed as a percentage of total households.
This measure represents the number of households which rely upon government support to meet their basic needs.
In 2015-19, 3.5% of Essex County households received public assistance income. This was little changed from 2000, and similar to the state rate (2.7%) and the nation (2.4%). While the state rate also declined slightly since 2000, the national rate declined 1 percentage point. Among Essex County cities with statistically reliable results, Lawrence (11.4%) had the highest rate while Lynn had the lowest (4.8%) in 2015-19.
Essex County's 2015-19 rate was higher than Lake, IL (1.5%), Westchester, NY (1.9%) and Middlesex, MA (1.7%).
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federally funded program administered at the state level, meaning that eligibility requirements vary from state to state. ACS does not ask specifically which program provides the income, although TANF is the primary source of public assistance funds. Families are eligible for TANF benefits for up to 60 months, although most receive assistance for shorter periods of time.
Studies have found that national survey estimates (including the ACS) of enrollment in public benefit programs tend to underestimate the true rate due to underreporting by participants, when compared with state-level administrative data. Underreporting can occur for a variety of reasons, including the social stigma of program participation and participants' confusion about the source of the services they receive. For these reasons, the estimates reported above should be considered a lower bound of the true estimate.