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The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in SNAP Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes

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  • Ganong, Peter

    (Harvard University)

  • Liebman, Jeffrey B.

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Approximately 1-in-7 people and 1-in-4 children received benefits from the US 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, take-up and enrollment rose dramatically in the Great Recession, with take-up reaching 87% in 2011. We find that changes in local unemployment can explain at least two-thirds of the increase in enrollment from 2007 to 2011. Increased state adoption of relaxed income and asset thresholds and temporary changes in program rules for childless adults explain 18% of the increase. Total SNAP spending today is 6% higher than it would be without these increases in eligibility. The recession-era increase in benefit levels is also likely to have increased enrollment.

Suggested Citation

  • Ganong, Peter & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2013. "The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in SNAP Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes," Working Paper Series rwp13-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-037
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Cited by:

    1. Jesse Rothstein & Robert G. Valletta, 2017. "Scraping by: Income and Program Participation After the Loss of Extended Unemployment Benefits," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 36(4), pages 880-908, September.
    2. Robert E. Hall, 2015. "Quantifying the Lasting Harm to the US Economy from the Financial Crisis," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 71-128.
    3. Pashchenko, Svetlana & Porapakkarm, Ponpoje, 2013. "Work Incentives of Medicaid Beneficiaries and The Role of Asset Testing," MPRA Paper 49730, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Rozema, Kyle & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2015. "Behavioral Responses to Taxation: Cigarette Taxes and Food Stamp Take-Up," IZA Discussion Papers 8907, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Alex Hollingsworth & Christopher J. Ruhm & Kosali Simon, 2017. "Macroeconomic Conditions and Opioid Abuse," NBER Working Papers 23192, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Hartley, Robert Paul & Lamarche, Carlos & Ziliak, James P., 2017. "Welfare Reform and the Intergenerational Transmission of Dependence," IZA Discussion Papers 10942, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Nathaniel Hendren, 2016. "The Policy Elasticity," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 51-89.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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