University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Supported from Both Sides? Changes in the Dynamics of Joint Participation in SNAP and UI Following the Great Recession

This paper uses panel data from the nationally representative Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) from years 2000 through 2011, to examine changes in the prevalence and character of joint participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) among job losers during the Great Recession. Descriptive as well as multivariate analyses are presented. Descriptive statistics examining changes following the onset of the Great Recession indicate heightened use of UI and SNAP; a change in the sequencing of program entrance with joint participants becoming less likely to access SNAP first (also notable is the high incidence of joint participants who began accessing SNAP while still employed both pre- and post-recession); and the composition of the group joint participants becoming more advantaged across a range of demographic characteristics.

Our multivariate results suggest that the extended length of unemployment spells following the onset of the Great Recession drives much of the increase in joint participation. The extension of UI benefits; the modernization of UI eligibility criteria; and the liberalization of SNAP eligibility requirements account for the remaining increase in joint participation. These results suggest that—through countercyclical design and through legislative action—our safety net programs have been responsive to a changed macroeconomic context and changing needs of the target populations of UI and SNAP. Further research, however, is called for to examine the sizable group of unemployed Americans who do not access help from either program.


Employment, Food & Nutrition, Food Assistance, Unemployment/Nonemployment


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