SNAP Participation Rates Down in 42 States

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides assistance to millions of low-income American individuals and families to help purchase groceries. SNAP constitutes a vital part of the social safety net, as it can give struggling Americans a leg up particularly when economic times are difficult. The Great Recession of 2008 was one such time where programs like SNAP were used more frequently as unemployment rose and financial markets tanked. The American economy, however, has made a significant comeback over the last few years. Two key metrics of economic health, unemployment rates and percentage of Americans below the poverty level, have improved over this time. As expected, monthly averages of individuals receiving SNAP benefits have also largely declined in recent years.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the national unemployment rate peaked in 2010 at 9.6 percent, and has since dropped from 7.4 percent in 2013 to 5.3 percent in 2015. The annual average unemployment rate decreased in 49 states plus the District of Columbia from 2013 to 2015; only West Virginia remained unchanged at 6.7 percent over this time period.

The BLS additionally collects state-level data on the percentage of citizens living below the poverty line. According to the latest data, the percentage of citizens below the poverty level declined in 34 states plus the District of Columbia from 2012 to 2014. Two states, New York and Wisconsin, remained unchanged while this percentage increased in 14 states. The majority of these 14 states, however, only had marginal increases of 0.5 or less. Alaska was the only state with an increase in the percentage of citizens below the poverty line higher than 1.0.

The full state-by-state data set can be downloaded as a PDF below, but here are a few notable figures in regard to average monthly SNAP participation data from 2013 to 2016:

  • The monthly average of individuals receiving SNAP benefits decreased in 42 states plus the District of Columbia over this time period.
  • Two states had percentage change decreases of 20 percent or more: Kentucky (-22 percent) and Maine (-23.4 percent).
  • Six states had percentage change decreases of 15 percent or more: Idaho (-16.1 percent), Indiana (-17.6 percent), Kansas (-18.4 percent), Michigan (-15.8 percent), Tennessee (-15.2 percent), and Vermont (-19.1 percent).
  • SNAP participation averages increased in eight states over this time period.
  • Of the eight states with increases in SNAP participation, all but one had percentage increases of 6 percent or less. Nevada was the outlier with a percentage change increase of 21.7 percent.


SNAP and Economic Data

Author's analysis of data from

SNAP and Economic Data.pdf158.8 KB