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Most SNAP Participants Move In and Out of Work: An Animated Look

March 27, 2018 at 9:45 AM

Most adults who participate in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) work, our new paper finds. Many of these workers move in and out of both work and SNAP over time, as our new animation illustrates. Workers who participate in SNAP frequently work in low-wage jobs with little stability and lack key work supports, such as affordable child care — conditions that often contribute to job turnover. Some participate in SNAP to supplement low wages or insufficient hours, and others participate when they lose a job or their hours are cut.

Many SNAP participants who aren’t working in an average month are temporarily out of work. Those who don’t work over time often have family members who work, have caregiving responsibilities, or face barriers to work such as health conditions that limit their ability to work, as our paper describes.

Most SNAP participants who can work, do, but they are most likely to receive SNAP when they are between jobs. Here we show people who participate in SNAP over a period of roughly 3.5 years as they move in and out of both SNAP and work. We show that looking at any given month doesn’t tell the whole story, because:

  • Work is often unstable: Most participants work, but many move in or out of work.
  • SNAP is often a short-term support: Most participants only received SNAP for part of the 3.5-year period.

Therefore by the end of the period of several years, most have moved in and out of SNAP, work, or both.