E.g., 12/09/2023
E.g., 12/09/2023
SNAP Access and Participation in U.S.-Born and Immigrant Households: A Data Profile

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—often called food stamps—was developed by the U.S. government to address food security in the nation’s low-income families. SNAP participation has been shown to have important health and developmental benefits for children and adults, and it plays a role in mitigating food insecurity and related health-care costs for the communities in which they live. Yet, a significant number of lawfully present immigrant adults and children are unable to access SNAP due to their immigration status.

This issue brief examines the size and characteristics of the population of immigrants who have incomes low enough to qualify for SNAP, and their eligibility for benefits, as determined by their immigration status. It provides estimates at both the national and state level for individuals in poor U.S.-born households and in poor immigrant households where all members are eligible, ineligible, or have mixed eligibility based on immigration status. The brief then takes a closer look at eligibility and participation in households with children. To estimate the impact of federal restrictions on immigrants’ eligibility for federally funded SNAP, the brief also explores how many would have been eligible if not for the 1996 change in law that made many lawfully present noncitizens ineligible.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Restrictions on Immigrants’ SNAP Eligibility and Participation

3  Income Eligibility Rules and SNAP Benefits
State Discretion: Flexible Requirements and State-Funded Programs for Federally Ineligible Immigrants

4  Poor Immigrant Households’ Eligibility and Participation
A. State-by-State Estimates of Poor Immigrant Households’ SNAP Eligibility
B. SNAP Participation of Poor Immigrant Households
C. State-by-State Participation Rates

5  Profile and SNAP Participation of Children in Poor Households
A. National and State Trends
B. SNAP Participation by Race and Ethnicity

6  Gauging the Impact of Federal Restrictions on Lawfully Present Immigrants’ SNAP Eligibility

7 Conclusion