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The Great Recession and the Changing Geography of Food Stamp Receipt


  • Tim Slack
  • Candice Myers


The Great Recession has been distinctive in driving up unprecedented levels of participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This study extends the literature on the geography of SNAP receipt by (1) examining change in SNAP receipt across US counties during the Great Recession and (2) identifying how changes in other local characteristics were associated with this outcome. Our analysis draws on data from the US Department of Agriculture and other secondary sources. We use descriptive statistics, mapping, and weighted least squares spatial regression models to examine county-level variation (N = 2,485) in the percentage-point change in SNAP receipt between 2007 and 2009. Our findings reveal substantial local-level variation in the change in SNAP stamp use during the downturn. We find that counties with the greatest levels of change in SNAP participation tend to be regionally clustered. Our regression analysis shows that areas where the signature characteristics of the Great Recession were most pronounced (i.e., home foreclosures and unemployment) were precisely the places where SNAP use jumped most, not places with historically high levels of SNAP participation. Overall, this study demonstrates that change in SNAP receipt was geographically uneven during the Great Recession, and that local and regional configurations matter in shaping this variation. These results hold a range of implications for public policy, including opportunities for regionally targeted outreach and investment in SNAP and the use of the program as a responsive form of local stimulus during periods of economic crisis. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Tim Slack & Candice Myers, 2014. "The Great Recession and the Changing Geography of Food Stamp Receipt," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 33(1), pages 63-79, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:poprpr:v:33:y:2014:i:1:p:63-79
    DOI: 10.1007/s11113-013-9310-9

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Janet Currie & Erdal Tekin, 2015. "Is There a Link between Foreclosure and Health?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 63-94, February.
    2. David N. Figlio & Craig Gundersen & James P. Ziliak, 2000. "The Effects of the Macroeconomy and Welfare Reform on Food Stamp Caseloads," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(3), pages 635-641.
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    4. Lloyd Grieger & Sheldon Danziger, 2011. "Who Receives Food Stamps During Adulthood? Analyzing Repeatable Events With Incomplete Event Histories," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(4), pages 1601-1614, November.
    5. Goetz, Stephan J. & Rupasingha, Anil & Zimmerman, Julie N., 2004. "Spatial Food Stamp Program Participation Dynamics in U.S. Counties," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 34(2), pages 172-190.
    6. Paul Voss, 2007. "Demography as a Spatial Social Science," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 26(5), pages 457-476, December.
    7. J. P. Ziliak & C. Gundersen & D. N. Figlio, "undated". "Welfare Reform and Food Stamp Caseload Dynamics," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1215-00, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
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    Cited by:

    1. Brian Thiede & Shannon Monnat, 2016. "The Great Recession and America’s geography of unemployment," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(30), pages 891-928.
    2. Karly S. Ford & Kelly Ochs Rosinger & Qiong Zhu, 2021. "Consolidation of Class Advantages in the Wake of the Great Recession: University Enrollments, Educational Opportunity and Stratification," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 62(7), pages 915-941, November.
    3. Chung, Yiyoon, 2015. "Does SNAP serve as a safety net for mothers facing an economic shock? An analysis of Black and White unwed mothers' responses to paternal imprisonment," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 179-192.
    4. Andrew London & Colleen Heflin, 2015. "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel, Veterans, and Reservists," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(6), pages 805-826, December.
    5. Clare Y. Cho & Jill K. Clark, 2020. "Disparities in Access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Retailers Over Time and Space," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 39(1), pages 99-118, February.

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