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Dynamics of Food Stamp Program Participation, 2001-2003

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The Food Stamp Program provides assistance to millions of families each month. This report examines how long families tend to receive food stamps, and what circumstances lead them to enter and exit the program. About half the families that begin receiving benefits participate for eight months or less. Changes in earnings help explain why individuals enter (and subsequently exit) the program. More than half of the families that entered the program between 2001 and 2003 did so after a drop in monthly earnings; three-quarters of the families that left the program over this period did so when their total monthly income increased by more than 10 percent. The data source was the 2001 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a nationally representative, short-term longitudinal survey that collects detailed information on monthly labor force activity, earned and unearned income, cash and noncash assistance, and family and household composition.