Number of SNAP participants, unemployed, and people in poverty, 1980–2022

Line chart showing number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants, unemployed, and people in poverty from 1980 to 2022.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) caseloads and benefits are strongly associated with economic conditions. SNAP is one of the United States’ primary countercyclical programs, expanding during economic downturns and contracting during periods of economic growth. The number of SNAP participants generally tracks the number of unemployed people and the number of people in poverty, which tend to increase during and following periods of economic recession. However, improvement in economic conditions during the early stages of recovery may take longer to be felt by low-wage workers who are more likely to receive SNAP benefits, which can result in a lagged reduction in SNAP participation relative to reductions in unemployment.

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