Fact of the Week: SNAP Kids Are Nearly 20 Percent More Likely to Graduate High School


December 10, 2015

Economists Recognize SNAP’s Importance for Economic Success
A new report released this week by the White House Council of Economic Advisers shows that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is highly effective in reducing food insecurity and is critical for low-income families. The good outcomes that result from SNAP start before birth and extend into adulthood with improved health, education attainment and economic sufficiency. Despite its success, however, the report also found that SNAP benefit levels are too low, and this inadequacy leads to damaging outcomes for recipients and our nation as a whole. It is notable that the President’s economic advisers are highlighting these findings. The research points to long-term economic benefits when children’s nutritional needs are met. In short, they grow up more educated and healthier.

The report highlights new research as well as research that has been proving SNAP’s effectiveness for years. Among the findings in the report:

    • Adults who grew up in disadvantaged households were 18 percentage points more likely to have graduated from high school and 16 percentage points less likely to be obese if their families had access to SNAP when they were young.
    • Women whose families received SNAP when they were young showed significant improvements in economic self-sufficiency, including education attainment, increased earnings, and reduced participation in public assistance programs.
    • SNAP cut in half (from about 1.7 million to 860,000) the number of American households living on less than $2.00 per person per day.
    • The Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that SNAP lifted 4.7 million Americans out of poverty in 2014. Research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that accounts for underreporting of benefits show an even stronger impact, with SNAP lifting 10.3 million people, including 4.9 million children, out of poverty in 2012.
    • Among low-income individuals with diabetes, hospital admissions due to low blood sugar increased 27 percent between the first week of the month and the last week, likely driven by SNAP benefits running out.
    • 1 in 7 U.S. households – and 1 in 5 households with children – is food insecure.
    • Nearly one in two households receiving SNAP has children, and three-quarters of recipient households have a child, elderly member or a member with a disability.
    • The percentage of households experiencing food insecurity has increased since the late 90s.
    • Over half of SNAP households still experience food insecurity, and the fraction who reported very low food security – reducing food intake and skipping meals because of a lack of food – has risen since the end of temporary benefits expansion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

As we noted in our national Census and poverty report released this fall, cuts in SNAP that occurred at the end of October 2013 cut the average benefit from $1.70 per meal to $1.40. According to health researchers at Children’s HealthWatch, that cutback made SNAP households with children under age three 23 percent more likely to be food insecure, placing the children at risk for bad health and education outcomes.

SNAP is a cornerstone of our country’s efforts to fight hunger, food insecurity and poverty. We must ensure that SNAP benefits are not only protected from further cuts, but are expanded to meet the needs of recipients. Especially around the holidays, when many of us will gather around tables full of food, we need to take steps to ensure our low-income neighbors aren’t left hungry. We’ve included sample tweets below you can use to share this report and raise awareness of the importance of SNAP.

On a related note, Congress is still hasn’t completed a reauthorization of the law governing child nutrition programs, which expired on September 30 (though the programs continue to be funded on a temporary basis). The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act sets the policy and funding structure for all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs, including National School Lunch, Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and others, which are also a crucial part of ending hunger in America. Many of these programs are permanently authorized (subject to Congress funding their operations), but Congress reviews the laws governing them every five years. Funding for some of these programs may get wrapped up in the larger appropriations bill that’s at the top of Congress’s to-do list. Stay tuned to CHN’s Human Needs Report for more information on this as it moves (or doesn’t…) through Congress.

Sample Tweets (courtesy of our friends at FRAC, the Food Research and Action Center):

    • New evidence from @WhiteHouse confirms SNAP is the cornerstone to alleviating food insecurity: http://1.usa.gov/1R8ujk8


Food and Nutrition
Poverty and Income