Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance: How Tight Are the Strands of the Recessionary Safety Net?
United States Department of Agriculture, November 2013

This report provides nationally representative annual estimates for 2004-09 of households’ multi-program or “joint” participation patterns in both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, including breakouts of household types categorized by household income relative to poverty, race/ethnicity, and education level. SNAP and UI are two strands of the Nation’s recessionary safety net—the subset of safety-net programs for which participation is responsive to the business cycle. Using data from the Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement to the Current Population Survey, the study found that an estimated 14.4 percent of SNAP households also received UI at some time in 2009 (a recessionary year), an increase of 6.6 percentage points from 2005 (a full-employment year). Conversely, an estimated 13.4 percent of UI households also received SNAP in 2009, an increase of 2.3 percentage points from 2005. SNAP households with lower annual income relative to poverty or with householders who did not complete high school were relatively less likely to also have UI, indicating that these populations were relatively more likely to rely on SNAP benefits alone (without UI).