The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps struggling families get through tough times. But it does more than that, SNAP also sets children up for future success, leading to better health and economic outcomes and ultimately putting children into a position where they are less likely to need assistance as adults. House Republicans are currently working on a plan that erodes this investment in children, though. If passed, more than a million recipients will lose SNAP benefits each month in 2028, with most of them living in households with children.
A paper released earlier this week reviews the evidence on SNAP and similar federal programs. The authors find that programs that alleviate the effects of poverty, especially those targeted toward children, have long-run positive effects on children’s health, education, and employment outcomes. Childhood access to SNAP is associated with having better health status as adults, as measured by obesity, body mass index, and chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
SNAP recipients also have higher high school graduation rates, employment rates, and earnings, and are less likely to rely on means-tested programs themselves as adults. The researchers additionally find that SNAP is not a substantial disincentive to work based on a survey of credible research.
Past research also highlights the positive return on investment of the SNAP program. SNAP is responsive to economic changes, with enrollment rising during downturns, helping to stimulate the economy, and then falling as the labor market recovers and poverty drops. The program is run efficiently, with more than 93 percent of spending going toward direct nutrition assistance for families. And spending is heavily targeted at families with children—SNAP reaches one in four children in the United States. In some states it reaches even more children, with the highest rate in New Mexico, where the program supports 41 percent of children.
Republicans are looking to undermine SNAP and other safety net programs on the pretext of reducing the deficit and encouraging work. These arguments are both flawed—the Republican tax cuts for the top 1 percent will cost more than the entire SNAP program next year and SNAP actually supports recipients’ ability to work. Efforts to dismantle SNAP are also short-sighted—SNAP is a program that accomplishes what Republicans claim they want: it leads to self-sufficiency.
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