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SNAP Benefits Recipients

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the name for what was formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program, as of October 1, 2008.

SNAP is a low-income assistance program that is uniform in its eligibility requirements and benefit levels across states (except for Alaska and Hawaii). While the definitions of income, household composition, and the resource income cutoffs are different from those used in the official measure of poverty, a household's eligibility for the program is determined by a standard that is tied to the poverty level.

SNAP Benefits Recipients for Counties

We obtain counts of the number of people participating in SNAP from the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (USDA/FNS) where available. For states not reported by USDA/FNS, we obtain counts directly from individual state offices. In most states, we use counts of participants for the month of July in the estimation process. In a few cases, however, the states are able to provide data only for other nearby reference periods.

We control the July county-level SNAP benefits variable values up to the state-level SNAP benefits variable (12-month average).

SNAP Benefits Recipients for States

We calculate the number of recipients by state as a 12-month average. For example, we used the average between July 2007 and June 2008 for the 2008 model.

A 12-month average produces a better measure of the typical annual number poor that receive SNAP benefits than a one-month figure. A 12-month average removes seasonality, smoothes out irregularities probably not related to income, and is more comparable with poverty rates based on annual income figures.

We also adjust isolated extreme values so that they are compatible with long-term trends. Outliers often result from special SNAP benefits issuance in response to natural disasters. These special programs relax the usual eligibility criteria for a short period of time. We remove these additional recipients with the adjustments.

In Alaska and Hawaii, we also remove the additional recipients resulting from more lenient SNAP eligibility requirements in Alaska and Hawaii. We obtain estimates of the number of recipients in these states who would not be eligible in the continental United States from the "SNAP Household Characteristics" survey of the USDA/FNS.

You can visit the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at the USDA for more information.


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