FIGURE 2-6 Trends in number of persons in poverty, exclusive and inclusive of SNAP benefits, 1999-2009.
SOURCE: Ziliak, 2011.

about 2 million people being lifted out of poverty each year through 2003, rapidly increasing to 4.5 million in 2009, most likely because of expanded generosity of benefits in response to the recession. Using the same CPS data as Ziliak (2011), Tiehen and colleagues (2012) found that SNAP participation had an even larger impact on reducing the depth and severity of poverty. Their estimates showed that SNAP benefits led to an average annual decline of 4.4 percent in the incidence of poverty from 2000 to 2009, while the depth and severity of poverty declined 10.3 and 13.2 percent, respectively.38


Although the basic design of SNAP (with the exception of national eligibility standards and elimination of the purchase requirement) has remained


38The incidence of poverty refers to the percentage of the population below the poverty line, while depth and severity refer to how far below the line a given poor person’s income is. The latter measures differ in the weight given to families farther below the poverty line, with the severity measure giving more weight than the depth measure to the poorest poor.

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