New versus Return Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program during the Great Recession
Lloyd D. Grieger, Yale University
Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) climbed to historic levels during and immediately following the Great Recession. However, it is unclear whether the recession-era increases in SNAP participation represented an influx of new participants or a mass return by former participants coinciding with the economic downturn. Using panel data spanning over four decades, I examine the extent to which the great recession coaxed new versus return participants to the program. I find that almost half of adult SNAP participation during and immediately following the recession was among first-time users. First time users were more likely than return users to be urban/suburban, white/Latino, college educated, and to have been living in two-adult (non-single headed) households. I also find evidence that first-time users were older during the great recession than first-time users in previous periods.