New USDA-FNS data break down the SNAP Gap by state.


The SNAP Gap

A recent FRAC Chat reported that the federal fiscal year 2018 SNAP eligibility-to-participation gap, or the “SNAP gap,” was around 18 percent. That means that nearly one in five individuals eligible for SNAP missed out on benefits. Now we have state-by-state data on SNAP participation rates overall and for low-income households, including those that are employed.

The USDA-FNS fiscal year 2018 data reveal great variation among states and geographic regions:

  • 26 states have a higher rate of participation than the national average, while 24 states have a lower rate;
  • Delaware, Oregon, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington State, and New Mexico had the highest SNAP participation rates, well above the national average of 82 percent;
  • Wyoming, North Dakota, Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, California, and Mississippi, registered the lowest participation rates (at or below 70 percent);
  • the Northeast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic Regions all had SNAP participation rates above the national average; the Southeast, Mountain, Southwest, and Western all fell below the national average; and
  • page two of the report provides SNAP participation rate data for all states, the District of Columbia, and all regions.


Under-participation Among People Who are Eligible and Low-Income While Working

USDA also identified more pronounced SNAP gaps among “working poor” people i.e., those “who are eligible for SNAP benefits and live in households in which someone earns income from a job.” Many working people earn so little that they remain SNAP-eligible. They often have jobs that only offer low wages and part-time hours. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, of those persons with jobs in February 2021, 5.2 million were part-time workers who wanted to but could not get full-time hours.

USDA estimates that in fiscal year 2018, the SNAP participation rate for low-income while employed people was lower than the national rate for all SNAP-eligible individuals in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Moreover, except in two states (Ohio and Wyoming), SNAP participation rates for low-income working people were all lower than the overall state rate.


Improving Outreach and Access

Many non-profit groups across the country–from Connecticut, Maryland, the District of Columbia, to Illinois, and California –partner with their states on SNAP outreach and application assistance. The new state-by-state SNAP gap data underscore the importance for USDA and the states to expand such targeted SNAP outreach and to improve SNAP access and enrollment practices so that SNAP benefits reach more eligible people.

Learn more with FRAC’s initial breakdown of the new SNAP data.