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Characteristics of SNAP Households: FY 2020 and Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Characteristics of SNAP Households

Resource type
Research type
Participation Characteristics
SNAP Benefit Use
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Summary (206.05 KB)
PDF Icon Final Report (4.90 MB)

In fiscal year (FY) 2020, about 39.9 million people living in 20.5 million U.S. households participated in the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in an average month. The characteristics report provides information about the demographic and economic circumstances of SNAP households in FY 2020. Because the coronavirus COVID-19 public health emergency affected data collection starting in March 2020, statistics are reported by prepandemic period of October 2019 through February 2020 and the early pandemic period of June to September 2020 (March through May were not reported).

Key findings of the prepandemic period from The Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2020 include:

  • Four in five SNAP households included either a child, an elderly individual, or an individual with a disability.
  • The average SNAP household received a monthly benefit of $230 in the prepandemic period of FY 2020.
  • Eighty-one percent of households had gross monthly income less than or equal to the poverty line.
  • More than one quarter of SNAP households—and half of households with children—had earnings.

The COVID-19 supplemental report examines in more detail key differences between household characteristics in the prepandemic and early pandemic periods. Key findings from this report include:

  • Due to supplemental changes in sources of income, average gross income remained statistically unchanged while net income rose.
  • The percentage of SNAP households reporting earnings fell. The percentage reporting zero gross income rose.
  • Monthly Unemployment Insurance income, averaged across all SNAP participants, increased nearly fivefold in the early pandemic, from $8.70 to $42.80.
  • The proportion of households receiving either the minimum or maximum benefit increased in the early pandemic period.
  • An overall decrease in deductions was driven primarily by the average earned income and shelter deductions.
  • Average household size did not significantly change overall or for any subgroups.
  • Except for households with children, all subgroups saw an increase in average gross income.
  • On average, the increase in net income led to a fall in non-EA SNAP benefits.
  • Households received an average of nearly $115 in EA each month, but amounts received varied by household composition.
  • When added to cash income, regular SNAP and EA moved nearly 4-in-10 households out of poverty.
Page updated: November 29, 2022