At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Allows tracking of state SNAP rules and policies



The SNAP Policy Database provides a central data source for information on State policy options in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The database includes information on State-level SNAP policies relating to eligibility criteria, recertification and reporting requirements, benefit issuance methods, availability of online applications, use of biometric technology (such as fingerprinting), and coordination with other low-income assistance programs. The information in this database can facilitate research on factors that influence SNAP participation and on SNAP's effects on a variety of outcomes, such as health and dietary intake.

Target Population

Households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program


Data are provided for all 50 States and the District of Columbia for each month from January 1996 through December 2016


The Economic Research Service (ERS), U. S. Department of Agriculture

Special Note(s)

The ERS SNAP Policy database provides a central data source for information on State policy options in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For much of SNAP's history, administration of the program was fairly uniform across States. With passage of welfare reform legislation in 1996, along with subsequent legislative and regulatory changes, States now have considerable discretion in how they administer the program. State flexibility in program administration has important implications for equity in program design and administrative costs, and State policy choices have an influence on the SNAP caseload, making it useful to document patterns of SNAP policy changes.
However, it can be challenging to present myriad policy changes in a meaningful way that is also clear and easy to understand. To address this challenge, ERS has used the SNAP Policy Database to create a SNAP Policy Index and interactive tool to provide an overall measure of how accommodating States are in enrolling individuals in SNAP. The SNAP Policy Index is comprised of 10 state policies that previous research indicates have statistically and economically significant impacts on SNAP caseloads. The index is available for each State and year from 1996 to 2014.


Sample Design


Sample Size

all 50 states

Key Variables

Policy type/Instrument

Eligibility criteria
Recertification and reporting requirements
Benefit issuance methods
Availability of online applications
Coordination with other low-income assistance programs

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability


Free of cost


Geocode Variable(s)


Existing Linkages


Selected Publications

Ganong, Peter and Jeffrey B. Liebman. 2018. "The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in Snap Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes." American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 10(4), 153-76.

Klerman, Jacob Alex and Caroline Danielson. 2011. “The Transformation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 30(4): 863-888).

Ratcliffe, C., McKernan, S., & Finegold, K. (2008). Effects of Food Stamp and TANF Policies on Food Stamp Receipt. Social Service Review, 82(2), 291-334. doi:10.1086/589707

Schmidt, Lucie, Lara Shore-Sheppard and Tara Watson. 2016. "The Effect of Safety-Net Programs on Food Insecurity." Journal of Human Resources, 51(3), 589-614.

Stacy, Brian, Laura Tiehen and David Marquardt. 2018. Using a Policy Index to Capture Trends and Differences in State Administration of USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Economic Research Service


The database documentation is available at: