Report: Food stamp spending boosted rural economy during recession more than other federal safety net programs

From 2008 to 2010, during and immediately after the Great Recession, federal food stamp spending had a much larger impact on rural economies than spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and unemployment insurance combined. That’s according to a new report by the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

The report marks the first time that the impact of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending was estimated with statistical methods, according to the ERS; past research predicted impact using economic simulations.

For every $10,000 in food-stamp benefits spent between 2001 and 2014, employment in non-metropolitan counties increased by 0.4 percent, the report found, but barely moved the needle in urban counties. SNAP payments nearly quadrupled in that time, partly because of Obama administration policies meant to stimulate the economy.

SNAP benefits had an outsized impact in rural areas because they’re paid directly to low-income people who are more likely to redeem those benefits quickly instead of saving them, which drove local demand for food and other goods, the report said.

The Rural Blog is published by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.