The Downs and Ups of the SNAP Caseload: What Matters?
44 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2017
Date Written: December 1, 2016
Since the 1990s, states have received unprecedented flexibility to determine Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility and program administration. We investigate the role of state flexibility in explaining SNAP caseloads and find that state SNAP policies accounted for nearly 40 percent of the predicted caseload decline between 1993 and 2000 – primarily through the eligibility restrictions on noncitizens – and nearly one quarter of the 2000-2011 caseload increase. State economic conditions, measured by the unemployment rate, also play a strong role in caseload changes, accounting for more than half of the predicted caseload decline between 1993 and 2000 and almost two-thirds of the increase between 2007 and 2011. We then conduct a number of policy simulations, including simulations of the size of the SNAP caseload if states had not acquired flexibility over program rules between 2000 and 2011. We estimate that, if all required states to adopt policies that would be expected to restrict caseload growth, the caseload would be between 44 percent lower while if all states were required to adopt policies that would be expected to increase the caseload the caseload would be 18 percent higher.
Keywords: Food Assistance, SNAP Caseload, State Policies, Poverty
JEL Classification: I38, I3, H53, H75
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation