Retention in the SNAP program is surprisingly low, but new systems of communicating with beneficiaries show promise

A high fraction of SNAP beneficiaries leave the popular food assistance program despite maintaining eligibility, according to a new Upjohn Institute working paper by Colin Gray of MIT. In “Why Leave Benefits on the Table? Evidence from SNAP,” Gray uses multiple administrative data sets to investigate the rates and drivers of retention in the SNAP program.

Gray’s paper makes three key contributions:

1) The majority of new SNAP cases in Michigan leave the program within a year, with exits concentrated during months in which reporting and recertification paperwork is due;

2) Many who exit the program remain eligible, but simply miss key deadlines; and

3) New techniques to communicate with beneficiaries and reduce administrative barriers can make substantial improvements in program retention of eligible beneficiaries.

Gray suggests that continued efforts to improve administrative data linkages can help government agencies accurately determine eligibility while minimizing administrative burdens on recipients.

Read "Why Leave Benefits on the Table? Evidence from SNAP" by Colin Gray.