Friday, May 18, 2012

SNAP benefits surpass 10% of all grocery spending

In 2010, for the first time, SNAP benefits appear to have surpassed 10% of all grocery spending.

This seems to me like a significant threshold.  The program formerly known as food stamps is not just an important part of the safety net.  It plays a big role in the U.S. retail economy more generally.  It should be a national priority to seek economic growth of the sort that reaches all the way to the low-wage labor market.  The last time we had that type of poverty-reducing economic growth for a sustained period was the late 1990s.

I provide more detail about recent program trends in "The New Normal: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (gated)," published this week in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE).  The paper came out of a lively conference session, organized by Benjamin Senauer and including papers by himself and Mark Rosegrant, Mike Boehlje, Brent Gloy, Jason Henderson, and Tim Beatty.

This figure compares administrative data on SNAP benefits to USDA's two data series on aggregate food spending.  Depending on the measure of food spending used, SNAP now represents 10% to 17% of the food retail economy.

Figure 4.
Total SNAP benefits, as a percentage of food at-home sales in food stores and in total, 1981–2010
Author's computation based on USDA/FNS annual SNAP data (converted from fiscal year to calendar year by interpolation) and USDA/ERS annual national food spending data by calendar year.


J said...

Parke - A significant threshold indeed! Any chance that there is an ungated version of the paper available? There are a number of us who work on the benefits outreach side of things with hunger relief orgs that would be very interested in the research. Thanks!

usfoodpolicy said...

Regrets for the gating. At some point I will try to disentangle myself from expensive journal outlets, but doing so without harming professional associations that matter to me will take some thought. Until then, just contact me by email.

J said...

Parke - No apologies necessary, completely understand. I'll shoot you an email.