Economic conditions affect SNAP participation rate

Economic conditions affect SNAP participation rate

In March 2013, close to 48 million Americans participated in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—a program designed to increase the purchasing power of low-income people by providing them with monthly benefits to purchase food. Changes in SNAP caseloads during periods of economic decline and growth are not driven solely by changes in the number of people who are eligible for the program, but also by changes in the participation rate, or percent of eligible people who choose to participate. Since 1980, between 48 and 75 percent of the people who met SNAP eligibility requirements enrolled in the program. Changes in program policies can affect the participation rate. For example, expanded outreach and simplification of the application process pull more eligible people into SNAP. Economic conditions can also affect participation rates, with periods of economic decline generally boosting the participation rate. This chart appears in the ERS report, How Economic Conditions Affect Participation in USDA Nutrition Assistance Programs, EIB-100.


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