Special Report

Big US Cities Where the Fewest People Use SNAP Benefits

Inflation has driven up the prices of nearly all goods and services, including necessary items such as groceries. The cost of a carton of eggs was 32% higher in May compared to a year ago. According to a report by Moody’s Analytics, American families pay $311 more each month, on average, for essential goods compared to one year ago. To survive the price hikes, millions of Americans may have to rely on the government’s food assistance benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

As of 2020, roughly 13.8 million U.S. households, about one in 10, received SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps. At the more local level, there are many affluent places where SNAP assistance is relatively uncommon.

To find the 50 metropolitan areas with the lowest SNAP recipiency rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the share of households that received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. As of 2020, 11.4% of U.S. households received SNAP benefits. Among the 50 metro areas on this list, that share ranges from 7.5% to as low as 4.1% of households.

While factors such as assets and household composition impact whether a household qualifies for the benefit, SNAP recipiency is primarily determined by income. So, as might be expected, metros with higher incomes tend to have relatively fewer households receiving SNAP benefits. The national median household income is $64,994. Out of the 50 metropolitan areas on this list, 35 have higher median household incomes. In the San Jose metropolitan statistical area, which has the second-lowest SNAP recipiency rate, the typical household has an income of $129,343. These are the states where the most children live in Poverty.

Because income is the primary determinant for SNAP recipiency, unemployment is a major determinant in how many people receive benefits, as those workers who are out of a job are likely to have little to no income. All but three of the metros on this list have five-year average unemployment rates lower than the national five-year unemployment rate of 5.3%. The Bismarck, North Dakota, metropolitan area has a five year unemployment rate of 2.4%, the lowest of any U.S. metro area. These are the states with the worst spikes in unemployment since the pandemic began.

Click here to see metros with the lowest SNAP recipiency rates

To determine the metros with the lowest SNAP recipiency rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the share of households that received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey.

We used the 384 metropolitan statistical areas as delineated by the United States Office of Management and Budget and used by the Census Bureau as our definition of metros.

Metros were ranked based on the share of households that received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months as of 2020. To break ties, we used the number of households that received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months.

Additional information on poverty rate, median household income, and unemployment rate are also five-year estimates from the 2020 ACS. Because the Census Bureau didn’t release one-year estimates for 2020 due to data collection issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all ACS data are five-year estimates.

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