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Nearly a Third of Children Who Receive SNAP Participate in Two or More Additional Programs

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About 92% of children who received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in 2017 received at least one other form of assistance and nearly a third received benefits from two or more additional programs.

An estimated 14.6 million (or one in five) U.S. children participated in SNAP — formerly known as food stamps — in 2017, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau estimates using data from the 2018 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).

In 2017, fewer than one in 10 children participating in SNAP did not receive benefits from any of the other programs examined here.

The new data reveal the array of programs children who receive SNAP and their parents may rely on to meet children’s basic needs:

When One Benefit is Not Enough

In 2017, fewer than one in 10 children participating in SNAP did not receive benefits from any of the other programs examined here.

The majority (six in 10) received one other benefit, and three in 10 received benefits from two or more additional programs.

Among children participating in SNAP, the most common additional benefit received was Medicaid/CHIP; 89% of children getting SNAP received both in 2017.

Of the programs examined here, the second most common benefit among child SNAP recipients was WIC. Nearly 20% of children getting SNAP also received WIC.

TANF or SSI benefits were less common for children who received SNAP. Roughly one in 10 also got TANF and only one in 40 also got SSI.

 

 

Though not examined here, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are additional sources of nutritional assistance for school-aged children receiving SNAP. Recent Census Bureau estimates also provide detail about children receiving free or reduced-price school meals.

Program Size and Eligibility

The key reasons programs overlap differently has a lot to do with the size of the programs and eligibility criteria.

SNAP provides benefits to more children than all other programs examined except Medicaid. Because of program size differences, however, even if all recipients of a smaller program received SNAP, most SNAP recipients would not be covered by that smaller program.

For example, most children (about 80%) who received TANF benefits also received SNAP in 2017 but only one in 10 who received SNAP also received TANF.

Eligibility for each of these programs is primarily based on income and asset thresholds often tied to federal poverty guidelines.

For example, although Medicaid and CHIP eligibility vary by state, even states with the most restrictive Medicaid/CHIP eligibility guidelines have income thresholds greater than the SNAP income eligibility threshold.

Therefore, children whose families have low enough income to be eligible for Medicaid/CHIP are almost always eligible for SNAP, too.

On the other hand, not only do SNAP and WIC income requirements differ but, unlike SNAP, WIC is limited to children younger than five.

All eligibility differences, including income and age, help explain both the difference in relative size of the programs and the varying overlaps in program receipt.

 

Michael D. King and Katherine G. Giefer are survey statisticians in the Census Bureau’s Program Participation and Income Transfers Branch.

 

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