Food Stamps and America’s Poorest

The paper provides the first assessment of: (i) America’s progress in lifting the lower bound—the floor—of the distribution of real income; (ii) whether the country’s largest antipoverty program, SNAP (“food stamps”), helped do so. An operational method of estimating the floor is implemented on micro survey data spanning 30 years, with various robustness and significance tests. SNAP partially compensated the poorest, and helped stabilize the floor. Nonetheless, the floor has been sinking over the last 30 years. The efficiency of SNAP in lifting the floor has declined over time. Full coverage of the poorest would lift the floor appreciable.