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Participation in USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program varies by State

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the cornerstone of USDA's nutrition assistance programs. The program accounted for 73 percent of all Federal food and nutrition spending in fiscal 2011, serving an average of 44.7 million people per month, or about 14 percent of Americans. The percent of the population receiving SNAP benefits to purchase food varies across States reflecting differences in need, as well as differences in program policies. The Southeast stands out as a region where all States have a high percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits, with participation rates of 16 to 21 percent. In 2011, 6.4 percent of Wyoming's population received SNAP benefits-the only State with less than 8 percent of the population receiving SNAP benefits. In 2009, there were 12 States with less than 8 percent of their populations participating in SNAP. This chart is one of the new maps in ERS's Food Environment Atlas, updated on June 29, 2012.

SNAP benefits mitigated increases in severity of child poverty during the 2007-09 recession

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The poverty rate for children grew from 17.4 percent in 2006 to 20.7 percent in 2009, as many families' incomes fell during the 2007-09 recession. Official poverty estimates do not include non-cash assistance, such as benefits from USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as income. A recent ERS study found that including SNAP benefits in family income would have lowered the poverty rate for children to 18.7 percent in 2009. SNAP benefits also ensured that the severity of child poverty increased only slightly from 2006 to 2009 despite worsening economic conditions. Severity of poverty was measured using an index that reflects the square of the poverty gap, defined as the average distance of poor families' incomes below the poverty threshold. Without SNAP, the severity measure would have increased from 5.5 in 2006 to 6.8 in 2009, an increase of almost 24 percent. With SNAP benefits, severity rose by only 11 percent. This chart appeared in "SNAP Benefits Alleviate the Incidence and Intensity of Poverty" in the June 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Middle-income households made biggest cuts to food spending during recession

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

During the 2007-09 recession, inflation-adjusted food spending by U.S. households fell 5 percent-the largest decrease in at least 25 years. Spending patterns differed by income level, with middle-income households curbing expenditures the most. Households in the middle quintile of income decreased their inflation-adjusted food expenditures by 12.5 percent from 2006 to 2009. Households in the lowest quintile cut spending 1.8 percent, while the highest quintile reduced food spending 5.7 percent. This chart appeared in the September 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Nonmetro families in deep poverty reached a 20-year high in 2009

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 2007-09 recession was particularly severe in the depth of poverty it engendered. The number of nonmetro residents living in poverty increased more than 8 percent between 2007 and 2009 to 8.1 million (a 16.6-percent poverty rate). Of these, an estimated 3.3 million (6.7 percent of the nonmetro population) were in deep poverty in 2009, up nearly 13 percent from 2007. The number of nonmetro residents living in poverty rose markedly in the previous two recessions as well (as measured by 1989-91 and 2000-02 annual data). Yet, the change in the deep poverty count was substantially higher during the 2007-09 recession. This chart appeared in the June 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Growth in nonmetro poverty is tied to recessionary increases in unemployment

Monday, March 14, 2011

Historically, poverty grows during recessionary periods as a result of job losses, difficulty finding new work, and reductions in work hours or wages. This is evident in both nonmetro and metro poverty rates, which follow the same trends as unemployment over time. The dramatic increase in unemployment during the 2007-09 recession is tied to growth in the number of nonmetro residents living in poverty. In 2009, the nonmetro unemployment rate was 9.0 percent, which represents a 3.4-point increase from 2008. This is the largest annual increase in unemployment in more than 35 years. The percent of the population living in nonmetro areas that were poor in 2009 was 16.6 percent, compared with 15.1 percent in 2008. This is the most significant year-to-year increase in nonmetro poverty since the early 1980s recession. This chart is from the December 2010 issue of Amber Waves.

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