FIGURE 2-3 Trends in the number and fraction of the population receiving SNAP benefits, 1969-2011.
SOURCES: FNS, 2012a; U.S. Census Bureau, 2012.
changes over time. Weighted data from the 2004 cohort showed that the median duration of participation for individuals enrolled in SNAP was about 10 months. About 25 percent of participants that left the program, however, returned within 6 months, and 50 percent returned within 20 months.
Given the dramatic changes in participation in recent years, an obvious question is whether particular population subgroups (e.g., children, adults) led the trends. Table 2-3 presents changes in the age composition of the SNAP program in recent years. In a typical year over the past decade, about one-half of SNAP participants consisted of school-age children and just over 40 percent nonelderly adults; these proportions changed little even during the previous recession (Eslami et al., 2011) (elderly adults are defined as aged 60 and over for SNAP purposes).
As shown in Table 2-4, there has been a near doubling of the fraction of SNAP households receiving the maximum monthly benefit over the past decade, and takeup rates increased from 64 percent of eligible participants in 1997 to 72 percent in 2009. Eligible participants that are entitled to higher benefits are more likely to participate. In 2009, while only 72 percent of eligible households participated in the program, the participating