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SNAP Helps Millions of Latinos

March 2, 2017

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program.  The SNAP program lifts millions of low-income Latinos out of poverty and helps them afford an adequate diet.

Poverty and Food Insecurity Are Higher Among Latinos

Latinos have a higher poverty rate than the overall U.S. population.  (See Figure 1.)  The most recent Census data show that: [1]

 

Figure 1
Latinos Have Higher Poverty Rates Than Nation as a Whole

 

  • About 1 in 5 Latinos (21 percent) lived below the poverty line, compared with 1 in 7 (14 percent) in the general population.
  • About 1 in 3 (29 percent) Latino children lived below the poverty line, compared with 1 in 5 (20 percent) among U.S. children.
  • About 1 in 6 (18 percent) Latinos aged 18-59 lived below the poverty line, compared with 1 in 8 (13 percent) among all such adults.
  • About 1 in 6 (18 percent) Latino adults aged 60 and over lived below the poverty line, compared with 1 in 11 (9 percent) among all such older adults.

Latino households are more likely to experience food insecurity, compared with all U.S. households.  (See Figure 2.)  The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) classifies households that lack consistent access to nutritious food at some point during the year because of limited resources as “food insecure.”  The most recent USDA report shows that: [2]

 

Figure 2
Latino Households Have Higher Food Insecurity Than Nation as a Whole

 

  • About 1 in 5 (19 percent) households headed by Latinos were food insecure in 2015, compared with 1 in 8 (13 percent) for all U.S. households.
  • More than 1 in 5 (22 percent) households headed by Latinos with children were food insecure in 2015, compared with 1 in 6 (17 percent) for all U.S. households with children.
Figure 3
SNAP Lifted Millions of Latinos Out of Poverty and "Deep Poverty" in 2014

How SNAP Responds

SNAP is a powerful anti-poverty program for Latinos.  In a typical month of 2015, SNAP helped about 10 million Latinos put sufficient food on the table.[3]  Its benefits lifted about 2.6 million Latinos, including 1.3 million children, out of poverty in 2014.  SNAP also kept 1.5 million Latinos out of deep poverty (above half of the poverty line) that year.[4] (See Figure 3.)

  • Latinos represent more than one-fifth of all SNAP participants. According to the Census estimates for 2015, Latinos make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population.[5]
  • More than a fifth of SNAP benefits — about $15 billion in 2016 — went to Latino households.[6]
  • On average, Latino families who participate in SNAP receive $297 in SNAP each month.

A typical participating Latino family of three has an average monthly income of $1,041 or 62 percent of the poverty line. When their $388 SNAP benefit — the average for a family of three — is added to their case income, total monthly resources rise by 27 percent, to $1,430.

End Notes

[1] U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016 Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

[2] Alisha Coleman-Jensen et al., “Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, Statistical Supplement,” USDA, September 2016, https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/err215/err-215.pdf?v=42636.

[3] The source for this data is the U.S. Agriculture Department’s fiscal year 2015 SNAP Households Characteristic data.  Reporting of race/ethnicity is voluntary and is missing for 15 percent of SNAP participants.  Some 7.7 million SNAP participants self-identified or were coded by an eligibility workers as “Latino or Hispanic.”  They represented about 17 percent of all SNAP participants.  The cases with missing race/ethnicity information is concentrated in 21 states.  For example, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington each were missing the data for more than 60 percent of SNAP individuals.  As a result, we relied on another data source, the March 2016 Current Population Survey to estimate that another 2-3 million Latinos, 5-6 percent of all SNAP participants should have been included as Latino.

[4] CBPP analysis of Census Bureau data from the March Current Population Survey; corrections for underreported benefits from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Urban Institute TRIM model.

[5] U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population as of July 1, 2015.

[6] A Latino household is defined as a household with at least one Latino SNAP participant.  About $12.3 billion, 18.5 percent of total SNAP benefits, were issued to Latino households based on the U.S. Agriculture Department’s fiscal year 2015 SNAP Households Characteristic data.  Due to missing race/ethnicity data discussed in footnote 3, we estimate that an additional $3 billion -$4 billion was issued to Latino households that did not report race/ethnicity data.

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