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Explaining Trends in SNAP Enrollment

Explaining Trends in SNAP Enrollment – Peter Ganong, Harvard University; Jeffrey B. Liebman, Harvard University, and NBER.
“Approximately 1-in-7 people and 1-in-4 children received benefits from the U.S. 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, enrollment and take-up rose dramatically in the Great Recession reaching 88% in 2011. We find that changes in local unemployment can explain at least two-thirds of the increase in enrollment from 2007 to 2011. Relaxed income and
asset thresholds and temporary changes in program rules for childless adults explain 18% of the increase. The recession-era increase in benefit levels is also likely to have increased enrollment.”

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