About the SNAP Policy Database

This page provides the following information:


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are federally funded, but the program is administered in partnership with the States. Historically, there was a uniform national standard for SNAP eligibility and benefit levels, with little State variation in SNAP administration, until the mid-1990s. Variation in State-level program administration and eligibility guidelines increased dramatically due to the 1996 welfare reform legislation (and subsequent legislative and regulatory changes). Since the mid-1990s, States have been granted more flexibility in the way they administer SNAP.

Previous versions of the database have been used to study factors that influence household SNAP participation and to improve estimates of the effects of SNAP on a variety of outcomes, such as household food spending and child health status.

Information included

The SNAP Policy Database provides a central source of information on State policy choices over time to capitalize on the research opportunities created by these natural policy experiments. It includes information on State-level program policies related to:

  • Eligibility criteria,
  • Recertification and reporting requirements,
  • Benefit issuance methods,
  • Availability of online applications,
  • Use of biometric finger-printing technology, and
  • Coordination with other low-income assistance programs. 

The database draws on policy information from a wide variety of sources, including surveys by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), national and State policy research organizations, State policy manuals, and news articles. Data are provided for all 50 States and the District of Columbia for each month from January 1996 through December 2016.

Recommended citation

Economic Research Service (ERS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). SNAP Policy Database, SNAP Policy Data Sets. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/snap-policy-data-sets/


The Economic Research Service would like to acknowledge the support it has received in compiling the information for the SNAP Policy Database. The database is primarily based on information supplied by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) through the SNAP State Options Reports, National Databank, SNAP Quality Control Data, SNAP State Waiver Database, policy guidance memos, contracted studies, and correspondence with FNS staff. Additional information came from a variety of sources, including reports on asset exemption policies and online applications from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as well as reports on State-funded food assistance programs from the National Immigration Law Center. The Urban Institute originally compiled the information on State SNAP policies from 1996 to 2004 with funding from the ERS Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program. We also acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Yaoqi Lin, Katie Fitzpatrick, and Margaret Andrews in compiling this database.