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Abstract

States where a large proportion of the poor are rural residents or racial/ethnic minorities offered lower levels of welfare support under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program than did other States. No corresponding rural or racial/ethnic disadvantages are observed in the Food Stamp Program, which has standard eligibility criteria and benefit levels nationwide. The rural AFDC disadvantage could be accounted for by the fact that States with lower per capita income and higher poverty rates generally offered less generous AFDC benefit levels. The minority disadvantage was substantial even when the effects of State per capita income and poverty rate were controlled. Among counties within States, on the other hand, there is no evidence that rural counties or counties with high proportions of minority population fared worse than other counties. Household- level analyses corroborate the county-level findings in general, except that they point to substantial underuse of AFDC by rural Hispanics. The findings suggest that national welfare program standards are important for maintaining or improving equity in welfare access and highlight the importance of progressive funding of block grants. They also suggest that the rural and minority poor have an important stake in the design of State welfare programs.

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