Urban Wire Gathering insights from Native American communities
Lionel Foster
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TCC Tribal TANF Office in Huslia AK

For many years Urban Institute studies have provided fundamental information about American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities, including demographics, housing conditions, and federal assistance designed to help AIAN households in need.An Urban report highlighting tribal use of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) was released November 8. And two other studies, a congressionally mandated assessment of Native American housing needs and research on the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), are ongoingAs America recognizes Native American Heritage Month this November, here’s some of what we know.

1. More than 5 million people identify as American Indian and Alaska Native. During the 2010 census, when asked their race, 2.9 million US residents identified as AIAN only or what demographers refer to as “AIAN alone,” and an additional 2.3 million people selected AIAN as one of multiple races.

2. Hispanic AIAN individuals have grown as a share of the AIAN population and generally live in different places than Non-Hispanic AIAN persons.  The US Census Bureau considers race and ethnicity separately, with Hispanic heritage treated as an ethnic distinction. The Hispanic share of the AIAN alone population climbed from 8.4 percent in 1990 to 23 percent in 2010. In 2010, only 32 percent of Hispanic AIAN alone lived in tribal areas and their adjacent counties. In contrast, tribal lands and their surrounding counties accounted for two-thirds of the population of non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Natives.

3. Native Americans have seen gains in housing quality, but large gaps in access to basic facilities still remain. In larger tribal areas, the share of AIAN households lacking full in-home plumbing fell markedly, from 9.5 in 2000 to 6.1 percent in the 2006- 2010 period, but was still 11.5 times the national average.

4. Not all Native Americans benefit from casino revenues. In 2011, 18 percent of tribal gambling enterprises accounted for 75 percent of revenues. This means a large share of gaming revenues flow to a relatively small number of tribes and benefit a small percentage of the AIAN population.

5. Native Americans are utilizing the flexibility of some federal programs to tailor services to respect cultural traditions. The Urban Institute’s Tribal TANF study illustrates how some Native American communities are using TANF to meet the program’s goal of enhancing family stability while supporting tribal cultural activities and values. In the area of food provision, participating tribes consider tribal preferences and nutritional needs when selecting the foodstuffs available through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

These data come from the Decennial Census, the American Community Survey, and National Indian Gaming Association.

More Urban Institute work on Native American communities, including a 2009 report on tribal food assistance, is available here.

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Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP

Research Areas Families Housing
Tags Poverty Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Hunger and food assistance Family structure Economic well-being Housing affordability Housing subsidies Native populations
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center