Revised August 16, 2004

 FOOD STAMP CASELOADS ARE RISING
by Joseph Llobrera

PDF of full report

View Related Analyses

If you cannot access the files through the links, right-click on the underlined text, click "Save Link As," download to your directory, and open the document in Adobe Acrobat Reader

Following years of decline, food stamp participation has been on the rise for nearly four years.  In May 2004, the last month for which data are available, 23.9 million people participated in the Food Stamp Program.[1]  The number of food stamp participants has exceeded 23 million since December 2003.  Prior to this, March 1997 was the last time in which the number of food stamp participants exceeded this level.  Since its recent low point in July 2000, participation has increased by 7.1 million people, or 42 percent.

While it is not possible to determine what caused the increase in participation from the data available, it is likely that the majority of the increase can be attributed to the enduring severity of “long-term” joblessness.[2]  Labor market indicators suggest that it is extremely hard for people who have lost jobs to find a new one.  Although the labor market has been generating significant numbers of new jobs in recent months, it takes more than a few months of significant job growth to substantially reduce the problems of the long-term unemployed.  The Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation program was set up in March 2002 to provide additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to jobless workers who have run out of regular, state-funded unemployment benefits but have not found a job.  In May 2004, more than 293,000 individuals exhausted their regular state unemployment benefits and did not qualify for additional federal unemployment aid.  The number of “exhaustees” in May was higher than any other May on record, even though about 208,000 jobs were created in that month.  Similarly, about 350,000 jobs were created in both March and April yet in both months the number of exhaustees set records for such months.  This pattern is predicted to continue until October, even if job growth continues over the next several months.  Due to loss of employment and income, more families probably became eligible for the Food Stamp Program. In addition, some of the increase in participation is attributable to a greater share of already eligible families participating in the program.  This effect, however, is most likely smaller than the impact of the economy.  As noted above, while it is not possible to explain with certainty all aspects of the caseload growth, there are several observations worth noting.

Food Stamp Participation Changes
May 2002 to May 2004
  Participants, May 2002 Participants, May 2003 Participants, May 2004 Change, Change,
State May 02-May 04 May 03-May 04
Alabama 444,588 471,574 494,003 11.1% 4.8%
Alaska 49,901 53,966 56,251 12.7% 4.2%
Arizona 386,302 481,281 520,157 34.7% 8.1%
Arkansas 284,925 313,490 352,767 23.8% 12.5%
California 1,790,429 1,745,626 1,895,604 5.9% 8.6%
Colorado 181,253 213,633 246,409 35.9% 15.3%
Connecticut 171,290 182,523 198,059 15.6% 8.5%
Delaware 40,465 47,091 57,244 41.5% 21.6%
District of Columbia 74,186 83,333 87,602 18.1% 5.1%
Florida 987,236 1,012,016 1,184,419 20.0% 17.0%
Georgia 645,588 781,340 865,200 34.0% 10.7%
Hawaii 105,767 100,245 97,288 -8.0% -2.9%
Idaho 72,529 84,666 94,436 30.2% 11.5%
Illinois 905,751 971,183 1,082,344 19.5% 11.4%
Indiana 417,698 473,541 529,857 26.9% 11.9%
Iowa 140,098 158,189 186,840 33.4% 18.1%
Kansas 142,695 163,108 169,103 18.5% 3.7%
Kentucky 448,862 509,945 546,274 21.7% 7.1%
Louisiana 590,888 652,568 709,828 20.1% 8.8%
Maine 112,469 144,370 147,689 31.3% 2.3%
Maryland 230,900 254,160 274,197 18.8% 7.9%
Massachusetts 243,577 302,760 335,339 37.7% 10.8%
Michigan 761,842 855,415 960,556 26.1% 12.3%
Minnesota 218,725 238,552 250,431 14.5% 5.0%
Mississippi 321,139 359,613 376,876 17.4% 4.8%
Missouri 517,534 602,270 702,653 35.8% 16.7%
Montana 65,066 72,843 77,662 19.4% 6.6%
Nebraska 87,991 100,373 115,615 31.4% 15.2%
Nevada 98,540 116,610 121,220 23.0% 4.0%
New Hampshire 42,104 46,051 50,420 19.8% 9.5%
New Jersey 318,228 344,125 373,335 17.3% 8.5%
New Mexico 173,123 197,723 227,468 31.4% 15.0%
New York 1,351,125 1,452,645 1,616,306 19.6% 11.3%
North Carolina 575,947 651,370 750,459 30.3% 15.2%
North Dakota 36,585 40,072 42,086 15.0% 5.0%
Ohio 745,895 871,824 958,356 28.5% 9.9%
Oklahoma 320,619 380,189 409,273 27.7% 7.6%
Oregon 368,455 408,273 423,107 14.8% 3.6%
Pennsylvania 759,003 831,307 972,469 28.1% 17.0%
Rhode Island 72,335 75,883 78,058 7.9% 2.9%
South Carolina 381,211 453,941 496,593 30.3% 9.4%
South Dakota 48,141 52,408 54,064 12.3% 3.2%
Tennessee 600,722 743,838 801,926 33.5% 7.8%
Texas 1,567,805 1,875,207 2,254,673 43.8% 20.2%
Utah 91,853 108,080 125,259 36.4% 15.9%
Vermont 40,309 41,947 43,263 7.3% 3.1%
Virginia 352,419 393,351 463,184 31.4% 17.8%
Washington 355,676 419,027 463,619 30.3% 10.6%
West Virginia 255,192 246,700 245,534 -3.8% -0.5%
Wisconsin 265,812 300,436 325,399 22.4% 8.3%
Wyoming 23,905 25,504 25,532 6.8% 0.1%
TOTAL 17,722,416 19,653,535 22,314,167 25.9% 13.5%

 


End Notes:

[1] All participation figures used in this report were collected by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  National participation figures refer to the number of people participating in the program in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and exclude Guam and the Virgin Islands.  Recent participation figures are available on the web at http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/fspmain.htm.  These figures are preliminary and subject to change.

[2] See Despite Job Growth, a Record 2 Million Unemployed Have Gone Without Benefits, Isaac Shapiro, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 2004, available at http://www.cbpp.org/6-28-04ui.pdf.

[3] A U.S. Department of Agriculture report provides more information on trends in Food Stamp Program participation rates.  The report is available on the web at http://www.fns.usda.gov/oane/MENU/Published/FSP/FILES/Participation/Trends1999-2001.pdf.