Some 500,000 to 1 million childless adults will be cut off SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) over the course of 2016 as a three-month limit on benefits for unemployed childless adults returns in most areas of the country. This is a diverse, struggling, and underserved group, as we explain in a new paper that addresses some basic questions about the adults who may face the time limit, based on a review of research since it was first imposed as part of the 1996 welfare law.
This demographically diverse population has multiple barriers to independence and self-sufficiency. About 45 percent are women and close to one-third are over 40 years old. Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic. About a quarter have less than a high school education, and more than half have only a high school diploma or GED. Some are veterans, and some are non-custodial parents. They live in all areas of the country less than 40 percent live in urban areas. (See chart.)
While some in this group experience long spells of deep poverty or chronic homelessness, many others cycle in and out of work, often in low-paying jobs that don’t lift them out of poverty. The nation’s safety net offers meager assistance while they’re working, and virtually none when they’re out of work. SNAP benefits for this group, which average only about $5 a day, are one of the few forms of support available to them. The three-month benefit limit will cause serious hardship for many of them.