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The Effect of SNAP on Poverty

May 12, 2014 10:00 AM

The annual effects of SNAP on poverty itself were first estimated in the late 1970s and then regularly after the Census Bureau began to record recipients and amounts of food stamps in 1979. In The Effect of SNAP on Poverty by Laura Tiehen, USDA; Dean Jolliffe, World Bank; and Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin, the authors examin SNAP's effectiveness as an antipoverty weapon.

On signing the Food Stamp Act of 1964, President Johnson noted that “as a permanent program, the food stamp plan will be one of our most valuable weapons for the war on poverty” (Johnson, 1964). From a humble beginning of 2.9 million recipients per month and $228 million in benefits in 1969 (earliest national figures), the program has grown to serve 47 million persons with benefits of over $74.6 Billion in 2012 (USDA, 2013). In the late 60’s and early 70’s, when the average monthly benefit was under $20 per month per month, we did not record the effects of the then "Food Stamp" program on poverty. But the program was already having major positive impacts on mothers’ health and then birth outcomes for poor people, especially for blacks and then longer run gains in health and school achievement.

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