August 16, 2013

Chart of the Week: Food stamp enrollment by state, over time

FT_Food_Chart3Participation in the federal food stamp program (formally the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) soared following the 2008-09 financial crisis, both in raw numbers and as a share of the population. As of May, the most recent month for which data are available, 47.6 million people, or 15% of the population, received food stamps; in fiscal 2007, before the Great Recession, participation averaged 26.3 million people, or 8.7% of the population.

But individual states differ widely, not just in participation rates (23% in D.C., 7% in Wyoming) but in their patterns as well. Using data from the Agriculture Department and the Census Bureau, The Wall Street Journal built this nifty interactive chart that allows users to visualize those state-by-state differences.

Louisiana, for example, typically has one of the nation’s highest food-stamp participation rates, but participation soars during major natural disasters — such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Gustav and Ike in 2008, and Isaac this past September. Mississippi’s participation also spiked after Katrina and Rita; in May 2011,  a spate of severe weather in Alabama led to a jump there.

Alaska’s SNAP participation regularly drops late  in each year, giving its chart a bit of an EKG-like appearance. That’s almost certainly due to the dividend payments Alaskans receive in or near October of each year from that state’s Permanent Fund. The dividend, which was $878 last year, fluctuates based on the Permanent Fund’s earnings; it can represent a significant source of cash income for many Alaskans, especially in rural areas.

Category: Chart of the Week

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a Senior Writer at the Pew Research Center.

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5 Comments

  1. bnc62611 months ago

    And the american government wonders why Americans don’t want to vote!?? Because all the American government is sell out to foreigners And other countries!! They take care of other countries’ people before their own people!!

    Reply
  2. bnc62611 months ago

    The American government hands out food stamps to foreigners!! The american government is a sell out!!

    Reply
  3. Patricia Gibbons11 months ago

    North Dakota, Colorado & Minnesota all have 10% of people on food stamps (according to the WSJ’s details), but Minnesota is assigned a darker color.

    Reply
  4. Robert Rosenfield11 months ago

    Thank you for sharing the updated chart.

    Reply
  5. Joy Sayler11 months ago

    The numbers and charts do not reflect (however) the States’ practices. How easy it is to apply and receive for necessary help or how a State may humiliate participants. How media plays into the whole scenario as well can have a devastating affect on whether a family can or will apply when needed.

    Numbers aren’t good enough. It is important to know the details.

    Reply