The following six tables and accompanying figure provide information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program:
- Tables SNAP 1 and SNAP 2 and Figure SNAP 1 present national caseload and expenditure trend data on SNAP as discussed below;
- Table SNAP 3 presents some demographic characteristics of the SNAP caseload; and
- Tables SNAP 4 through SNAP 6 present some state-by-state trend data on the SNAP through fiscal year 2012.
SNAP Caseload Trends (Table SNAP 1). Average monthly SNAP participation was 46.6 million persons in fiscal year 2012, excluding the participants in Puerto Rico’s block grant. This is an increase over the fiscal year 2000 record-low average of 17.2 million participants and exceeds the previous peak of 27.5 million recipients in fiscal year 1994. See also Table IND 3b and Table IND 4b in Chapter II for further data trends in SNAP caseload, specifically, SNAP recipiency and participation rates.
Considerable research has demonstrated that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is responsive to economic changes, with participation increasing in times of economic downturns and decreasing in times of economic growth (see Figure SNAP 1). Economic conditions alone did not explain the caseload growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s, however. Studies suggest that a variety of factors contributed to this caseload growth, including a weak economy and higher rates of unemployment, expansions in Medicaid eligibility, the legalization of 3 million undocumented immigrants, and longer participation spells (McConnell, 1991; Gleason, 1998).
The decline in participation from 1994 to 2000 was caused by several factors, according to studies of this period. Part of the decline is associated with the strong economy in the second half of the 1990s. However, participation fell more sharply than expected during this period of sustained economic growth. Some of the decline reflected restrictions on the eligibility of noncitizens and time limits for unemployed nondisabled childless adults. Participation fell most rapidly among the following three groups: noncitizens and their US-born children, unemployed nondisabled childless adults, and persons receiving cash welfare benefits. As people left the welfare rolls, many also stopped participating in SNAP, even while remaining eligible (Genser, 1999; Wilde et al., 2000; Gleason et al., 2001; Kornfeld, 2002).
The increase in SNAP participation from 2000 to 2005 occurred during a period when unemployment increased from four percent to five percent, eligibility was restored to many legal immigrants, states expanded categorical eligibility and liberalized the treatment of vehicles, and efforts were made to streamline program administration and improve access for vulnerable populations. Driven to an even larger extent by the 2007-2009 recession, by 2012 the SNAP take-up rate (the percent of eligible households) is estimated to be 87.2 percent. During the recession, the poverty rate increased from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 14.3 percent in 2009 (see Indicator ECON 1). Between 2000 and 2012, SNAP participation increased by 13.1 million households (see Table IND 4b). Part of this increase was associated with an increase in the number of eligible households and part was associated with an increased participation rate among those households that were eligible. In 2014, SNAP participation has begun to decrease (see Table SNAP 1).
SNAP Expenditures. Trends in Food Stamps/SNAP expenditures for selected years between 1975 – 2013 are shown in Table SNAP 2. Since 2008 total federal costs have grown every year reflecting the increase in participation during that period due to the “Great Recession”. In 2008, total federal costs were $40.7 billion. By 2013 total federal costs had increased to $79.9 billion (in 2013 dollars). Benefit levels have also increased due to the “Great Recession” rising from $110.70 in 2008 to $133.10 per person in 2013. Benefit levels were highest in 2010 at $143.00 per person (in 2013 dollars). Note that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 temporarily increased SNAP benefits (through November 1, 2013), which impacted both SNAP expenditures and average benefit amounts, both of which have subsequently declined.
SNAP Household Characteristics. As shown in Table SNAP 3, the proportion of SNAP households with earnings has increased from 19.0 percent in 1980 to 31.0 percent in 2012. At the same time, the proportion of households with income from AFDC/TANF has declined from 42.0 percent in 1984 to 7.0 percent in 2012 following the dramatic decline in AFDC/TANF caseloads. A large percentage of all SNAP households have children although the proportion has declined from over 60.0 percent in 1980 to 45.0 percent in 2012. Eight-three percent of households have gross incomes below the federal poverty guidelines in 2012.
More information about SNAP, including program data can be found at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap.
Figure SNAP 1. Persons Receiving Food Stamps/SNAP: 1962–2013
Note: Total participants includes persons receiving assistance in Guam and the Virgin Islands. Shaded areas are periods of recession as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Annual poverty data have been converted to monthly data by linear interpolation to correspond to the monthly Food Stamps/SNAP data.
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, published online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap and unpublished data from the Food Stamps National Data Bank; U.S. Census Bureau, , “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013,” Current Population Reports, Series P60-249 and earlier reports (the population below 130 percent of poverty level income for 1962-2001 estimated by ASPE).
Table SNAP 1. Trends in Food Stamp/SNAP Caseloads: Selected Years 1962–2013
1 Total participants includes all participating states, the District of Columbia, and the territories (including Puerto Rico from 1975 to 1982–a separate Nutrition Assistance Grant for Puerto Rico was begun in July 1982). From 1962 to 1983 the number of participants includes the Family Food Assistance Program (FFAP) that was largely replaced by the FSP in 1975. The FFAP participants (as of December) for the seven years shown during the period from 1962 to 1974 were respectively: 6,411; 4,742; 3,977; 3,642; 3,002; 2,441; and 1,406 (all in thousands). From 1975 to 1983 the number of FFAP participants averaged only 88 thousand.
2 Includes all participating states and the District of Columbia only–the territories are excluded from both numerator and denominator. Population numbers used as denominators are the resident population and the 130 poverty level population.
3 The first fiscal year in which food stamps were available nationwide.
4 The fiscal year in which the food stamp purchase requirement was eliminated, on a phased-in basis.
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, data published online at www.fns.usda.gov/characteristics-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-households-fiscal-year-2012 and unpublished data from the USDA National Data Bank, the House Ways and Means Committee, 1996 Green Book, and U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013,” Current Population Reports, Series P60-249 and earlier reports (the population below 130 percent of poverty level income for 1962-2001 estimated by ASPE).
Table SNAP 2. Trends in Food Stamp/SNAP Expenditures: Selected Years 1975–2013
Note: Total federal cost and the cost of benefits does include food stamps in Puerto Rico from 1975 to 1982 but does not include the funding for the Puerto Rico nutrition assistance grant from the last quarter of FY 1982 (when it replaced Puerto Rico’s food stamp program) to the present. (Puerto Rico’s nutrition assistance grant was $778 million in 1983 and rose to $2.0 billion in 2013.)
1 Amounts include the federal share of state administrative and Employment and Training costs and certain direct federal administrative costs. They do not generally include approximately $60 million in food stamp-related federal administrative costs budgeted under a separate appropriation account (although estimates prior to 1989 do include estimates of food stamp related federal administrative expenses paid out of other Agriculture Department accounts). State and local costs are estimated based on the known federal shares and represent an estimate of all administrative expenses of participating states.
2 Constant dollar adjustments to 2013 level were made using a CPI-U-RS fiscal year average price index. These tabulations differ from USDA data because the data are rounded to the nearest $.10 in this table.
3 The fiscal year in which the food stamp purchase requirement was eliminated, on a phased-in basis.
4 Beginning 1984 USDA took over from DHHS the administrative cost of certifying public assistance households for food stamps.
5 The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 temporarily increased SNAP benefits (through November 1, 2013), which impacted both SNAP expenditures and average benefit amounts.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service unpublished data (available at online at www.fns.usda.gov/pd/SNAPsummary.htm) and www.fns.usda.gov/system/files/2013-state-activity.pdf.
Table SNAP 3. Characteristics of Food Stamp/SNAP Households: Selected Years 1980–2013
1 Data were gathered in August in the years 1980-84 and during the summer in the years from 1986 to 1994. Reports from 1995 to the present are based on fiscal year averages.
2 Public assistance income includes: AFDC/TANF, SSI, and general assistance.
3 These data refer to single-parent female heads with only one adult in the household but does not include households with more than one adult, not married, that are headed by a female (such as a single mom with teenage children, one of whom is 18).
4 Elderly members and heads of household include those of age 60 or older.
§§ The total percentage of households with public assistance income is approximately equal to the sum of those with AFDC/TANF and SSI income with some small percentage of households receiving both due to having individual members eligible for different forms of assistance (in 1996 just under 6 percent of households received assistance from multiple sources).
* Less than 0.5 percent.
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Analysis, Nutrition, and Evaluation, Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Households, Fiscal Year 2012, Report No. SNAP-14-CHAR (available online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/system/files/ops/Characteristics2013.pdf and earlier reports.
Table SNAP 6. Food Stamp/SNAP Recipiency Rates by State: Selected Fiscal Years
Note: Recipiency rate refers to the average monthly number of food stamp recipients in each state during the particular fiscal year expressed as a percent of the total resident population as of July 1 of that year. The numerator is from Table FSP 5 and the denominator is the Census Bureau’s estimate of state population.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Office of Food and Nutrition Service, (2000 to 2013 data published online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap and data from the U.S. Census Bureau (population by state available online at http://www.census.gov).