The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in Snap Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes

56 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2013 Last revised: 30 May 2021

See all articles by Peter Ganong

Peter Ganong

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jeffrey B. Liebman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 2013

Abstract

Approximately 1-in-7 people and 1-in-4 children received benefits from the US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in July 2011, both all-time highs. We analyze changes in SNAP take-up over the past two decades. From 1994 to 2001, coincident with welfare reform, take-up fell from 75% to 54% of eligible people. The take-up rate then rebounded, and, following several policy changes to improve program access, stabilized at 69% in 2007. Finally, take-up and enrollment rose dramatically in the Great Recession, with take-up reaching 87% in 2011. We find that changes in local unemployment can explain at least two-thirds of the increase in enrollment from 2007 to 2011. Increased state adoption of relaxed income and asset thresholds and temporary changes in program rules for childless adults explain 18% of the increase. Total SNAP spending today is 6% higher than it would be without these increases in eligibility. The recession-era increase in benefit levels is also likely to have increased enrollment.

Suggested Citation

Ganong, Peter and Liebman, Jeffrey B., The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in Snap Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes (August 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19363, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2315447

Peter Ganong (Contact Author)

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Jeffrey B. Liebman

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