The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has historically estimated the percentage of eligible persons who actually participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (the participation rate) by:
- Using Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) data to estimate the number of individuals eligible for SNAP (the denominator); and
- using SNAP administrative data to calculate the number of participants (the numerator).
However, modeling eligibility using survey data has a number of challenges, such as respondents misreporting of eligibility-related information and the necessity of using other data sources to impute information not included in the survey. This use of different data sources sometimes results in implausible participation rates exceeding 100 percent for certain subgroups.
FNS, the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), and the Census Bureau sought potential solutions to these issues by linking Census survey data with monthly administrative records at the person level.