Welcome to the new American economy, where low wages, high unemployment, and growing inequality have combined to create a majority of working-age adults among food stamp recipients for the first time. Historically, a majority of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients have been children or senior citizens, and a majority of households receiving benefits still include a child, senior citizen, or disabled adult, but:
As recently as 1998, the working-age share of food stamp households was at a low of 44 percent, before the dot-com bust and subsequent recessions in 2001 and 2007 pushed new enrollees into the program, according to the analysis by James Ziliak, director of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky.Republicans blame a culture of dependency, but in fact many of the working-age adults receiving SNAP benefits are working—maybe as health care aides, the fastest-growing job in America, or at fast food restaurants or Walmart. If there's a culture of dependency, in other words, it's profitable corporations depending on the government to augment their poverty wages. Add those poverty wages to an economy with around three job seekers for every available job and you see why the need for nutrition assistance is rising among working-age adults. That's why the analysis that found the majority of working-age adults also found that "from 2000 to 2011, [stagnant] wages and inequality accounted for 13 percent of the increase" in food stamp enrollment.
By education, about 28 percent of food stamp households are headed by a person with at least some college training, up from 8 percent in 1980. Among those with four-year college degrees, the share rose from 3 percent to 7 percent. High-school graduates head the bulk of food stamp households at 37 percent, up from 28 percent. In contrast, food stamp households headed by a high-school dropout have dropped by more than half, to 28 percent.