At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Data collected on children in the household, including information on some forms of physical activity.
  • Permits comparison over time of food expenditures for households receiving public assistance with households not receiving public assistance.
  • Provides extensive information on family economic status, demographics, and child well-being for families who have received public assistance.
  • Oversampling of low-income households.



To collect data about use of various types of public assistance over time as well as social, economic, and demographic changes for individuals and families residing in the United States (U.S.).

Target Population

Civilian, non-institutionalized individuals ages 15 years and older residing in the U.S. during the period of 1992-1993 and their families. SPD data were collected for individuals who previously participated in the 1992 to 1993 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) panel survey.


Began in 1997. Conducted annually. Most recent year conducted was 2002.


Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce

Special Note(s)

See also the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).

The primary goals of the SPD are to provide information on periods of actual and potential program participation over a 10-year period, 1992 to 2001, and to examine the causes of program participation and its long-term effects on the well-being of recipients, their families, and their children. The SPD has topical modules that vary by year.


Sample Design

Longitudinal. The SPD survey sample was drawn from the 1992-1993 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which had a multistage, stratified sampling design. Learn more.

Households meeting the following criteria were oversampled in the 1998 and later SPD surveys:
• Family income below 150 percent of the poverty threshold.
• Total family income between 150 percent and 200 percent of the poverty threshold, and with children younger than age 18 years in the household.
• Total family income above 200 percent of the poverty threshold, and with children younger than age 18 years in the household.
• Total family income between 150 percent and 200 percent of the poverty threshold, and with no children younger than age 18 years in the household.

Sample Size

Approximately 12,500 households in 2002.

Special Note(s)

Detailed information about sampling and methodology are published in the 2002 User’s Guide.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Age of each household memberInterview/questionnaire
Beginning and end dates for using each type of public assistanceInterview/questionnaire
Child support payments for each childInterview/questionnaire
Child’s residential history (2000 survey only)Interview/questionnaire
Disability (ADL/IADL*; emotional; equipment use; general; hearing; vision)Interview/questionnaire
Employment (including history)Interview/questionnaire
Income (earned and unearned) and sourcesInterview/questionnaire
Marital statusInterview/questionnaire
Members of household and relationship to one another, including number of children in householdInterview/questionnaire
Program eligibilityInterview/questionnaire
Types and amounts of public assistance received (covers all kinds, including food stamps [now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP] and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children [WIC]) and reasons for requiring public assistanceInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Child received free or reduced-price lunch and/or breakfastInterview/questionnaire (proxy)
Food expenditures other than groceries (e.g., restaurants, fast food, vending machines)Interview/questionnaire
Food securityInterview/questionnaire
Grocery expenditures (1999 and later)Interview/questionnaire
How often the family eats dinner togetherInterview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Average number of hours child spends viewing television/videos in past monthInterview/questionnaire (proxy)
Child’s participation in sports teamsInterview/questionnaire (proxy)


NameMethods of Assessment
State and metropolitan areaN/A


NameMethods of Assessment
Child’s disabilityInterview/questionnaire (proxy)
Respondent functional limitations and disabilityInterview/questionnaire

Special Note(s)

*ADL: Activities of Daily Living / IADL: Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Obtain data.


Free of charge.

Special Note(s)

The SPD longitudinal database contains data collected using three different survey instruments:
• The 1992/1993 SIPP used to collect data for calendar years 1992, 1993, and 1994.
• A modified March Current Population Survey used to collect data for calendar year 1996
• The 1998 SPD instrument used to collect data for calendar years 1997 through 2002.

The Census Bureau has a series of the SPD data products for public use:
• One interim calendar year file, for 1998 (to support preliminary analysis of income and program participation among the original cohort).
• Six fully edited cross-sectional files for 1997 through 2002.
• Three longitudinal files containing fully edited, consistently formatted core variables derived from the information collected over time. The three longitudinal files contain data for the following years: (1) for 1992–1994 and 1996–1997; (2) for 1992–1994 and 1996–1999; and (3) for 1992–1994 and 1996–2001.


Geocode Variable(s)

State, Census region and metropolitan area in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).

Existing Linkages

The SPD data on individuals have been linked to SIPP data using address and person identifier codes. Learn more about how this linkage was performed. The SPD samples were drawn from SIPP samples, so one-on-one record linkages were possible.

Special Note(s)

SIPP provides contextual information on participant location (metro versus residual).

Selected Publications


Working papers, including information on survey methods.


Huffman SK, Jensen HH. Linkages among welfare, food assistance programmes and labour supply: Evidence from the Survey of Programme Dynamics. Applied Economics 2005;37(10):1099-1113.

Ribar DC, Hamrick KS. Dynamics of poverty and food sufficiency. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. 36, 2003.

Wilde P, Nord M, Zager R. In longitudinal data from the Survey of Program Dynamics, 16.9% of the U.S. population was exposed to household food insecurity in a 5-year period. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 2010;5(3):380-398.


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