Characteristics of Elderly Individuals Participating in and Eligible for SNAP (Issue Brief)

Publisher: Oakland, CA: Mathematica Policy Research
Sep 30, 2016
Esa Eslami

Key Findings:

  • In an average month in fiscal year (FY) 2014, 10 percent of SNAP participants were elderly individuals, and 19 percent of participating SNAP households included at least one elderly member. 
  • From FY 2008 to FY 2014, the average monthly number of elderly SNAP participants increased by 85 percent, from 2.5 million in FY 2008 to 4.6 million in FY 2014. 
  • From FY 2008 to FY 2014, the number of elderly SNAP participants increased by over 50 percent in 40 states, and by 100 percent or more in 21 states. 
  • Nationally, about 14 million, or 19 percent, of all SNAP-eligible individuals were age 60 or older.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income individuals purchase food so that they can obtain a nutritious diet. Historically, elderly adults (age 60 or older) have participated in SNAP at lower rates than the general population. Tracking the characteristics of elderly individuals participating in or eligible for SNAP and evaluating trends in elderly SNAP eligibility and participation rates across states helps better inform discussions about the design and effectiveness of SNAP policy related to elderly individuals.