The Great Recession has been distinctive in driving up unprecedented levels of participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This study extends the literature on the geography of SNAP receipt by (1) examining change in SNAP receipt across US counties during the Great Recession and (2) identifying how changes in other local characteristics were associated with this outcome. Our analysis draws on data from the US Department of Agriculture and other secondary sources. We use descriptive statistics, mapping, and weighted least squares spatial regression models to examine county-level variation (N = 2,485) in the percentage-point change in SNAP receipt between 2007 and 2009. Our findings reveal substantial local-level variation in the change in SNAP stamp use during the downturn. We find that counties with the greatest levels of change in SNAP participation tend to be regionally clustered. Our regression analysis shows that areas where the signature characteristics of the Great Recession were most pronounced (i.e., home foreclosures and unemployment) were precisely the places where SNAP use jumped most, not places with historically high levels of SNAP participation. Overall, this study demonstrates that change in SNAP receipt was geographically uneven during the Great Recession, and that local and regional configurations matter in shaping this variation. These results hold a range of implications for public policy, including opportunities for regionally targeted outreach and investment in SNAP and the use of the program as a responsive form of local stimulus during periods of economic crisis.
Population Research and Policy Review – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 17, 2013
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