Counties 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 gallon of milk is up 25% compared to pre-pandemic prices. 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. However, at the more local level, there are highly affluent places where SNAP assistance is relatively rare.

To find the 50 counties 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 counties or county equivalents on this list, that share ranges from 3.5% to as low as just 1.0% households.

While factors such as assets and household composition impact whether a household qualifies, SNAP recipiency is primarily determined by income. So, as might be expected, counties with lower poverty rates also tend to have fewer households receiving benefits. In 2020, 12.8% of Americans lived below the poverty line. In 42 of the 50 counties or county equivalents on this list, the poverty rate is less than 10%, and in the case of Douglas County, Colorado, 3.2% of the population live below the poverty line, the lowest share out of the some 3,000 American counties. 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 Americans who are out of a job are likely to have little to no income. All but three of the counties on this list have five-year average unemployment rates lower than the national five year unemployment rate of 5.3%. Perkins County, Nebraska, is one of just a handful of U.S. counties with a five year unemployment rate of less than 1%. These are the states with the worst spikes in unemployment since the pandemic began.

Click here to see counties where the fewest people use SNAP benefits

To determine the counties 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.

Counties were excluded if the SNAP recipiency rate was not available in the 2020 ACS, if there were fewer than 500 households, or if the sampling error associated with a county’s data was deemed too high.

The sampling error was defined as too high if the coefficient of variation — a statistical assessment of how reliable an estimate is — for a county’s SNAP recipiency rate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean CV for all counties’ SNAP recipiency rates. We similarly excluded counties that had a sampling error too high for their population, using the same definition.

Counties were ranked based on the share of households that received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months. 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.

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