NC Budget and Tax Center

Poverty and the safety-net: SNAP works

Poverty continues to impact 1 in 5 North Carolinians, according to 2012 Census Bureau Data released last week. The extent of poverty would be far greater without the safety net and work supports, however. This post is part of a blog series that will explain how the new poverty data demonstrates the important role public programs play and the need for continued support.

Widespread poverty and stagnant living standards have become the status quo in North Carolina, according to the Budget and Tax Center’s analysis of Census data released last week. 2012 marked yet another year of the official economic recovery whereby the gains of economic growth passed over low- and moderate-income North Carolinians. High rates of hardship are persisting because of the state’s ongoing job shortage and the rapid acceleration of low-wage work that fails to provide a pathway to the middle class.

There is some good news in the Census data, however. The poverty rate would have been much worse if public policies weren’t in place to provide a necessary safety net. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the programs that is lifting millions of families out of poverty and helping them meet basic needs. If not for SNAP, 4 million additional Americans—many of whom are children—would have been in poverty in 2012. Similar data is not available at the state-level but we do know that nearly half of all SNAP participants in North Carolina are children (see chart below).

These findings are particularly noteworthy given the deep benefit cuts to SNAP that are on the horizon come November 1st and efforts from conservatives in Congress to severely cut the program. Put simply, cutting SNAP—and other safety net programs—will increase economic hardship for families and children as parents face difficult tradeoffs between food and other essential needs like rent, utilities, and child care.

Pie Chart of Who Uses SNAP, September 2013

Cuts to the SNAP program may reduce the short-term deficit but will yield significantly greater societal costs down the road. Sheldon Danziger, President of the Russel Sage Foundation, explained why in the NY Times last week:

“SNAP benefits not only reduce food insecurity and poverty this year; they also reduce poverty in the next generation. Recent research that tracked children into adulthood found that families’ access to food stamps improved their infants’ health and birth weight. Children who benefited from the program later posted better health, higher educational attainment, less heart disease and, for women, greater earnings and less reliance on welfare as adults.”

Chipping away at the safety net before the economy fully recovers will only make the day-to-day lives of vulnerable populations more difficult. Until public policies are put in place that close the job shortage, raise wages, and spread the economic gains broadly, keeping a robust safety net system is required to lower and keep poverty in check.

Join the conversation: Let’s #TalkPoverty and end the silent treatment. Sign the pledge here

Check Also

Redesigning TANF to lift more families out of poverty

The 1996 welfare law that created Temporary Assistance ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Students, faculty and staff at UNC continue protest the Chapel Hill campus’ Confederate monument, “S [...]

On a sultry day last September, Megan Stilley arrived at Lanier Farms, a large swine operation in ru [...]

When North Carolina lawmakers approved what one Republican described as a “historic” investment in r [...]

Lawmakers late last week released two new versions of a judicial redistricting bill, making these th [...]

The General Assembly’s latest mashup legislation is an example of government at its worst In the com [...]

The post Tied up in knots appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

Every day brings new reports that Congress is interested in further whittling away at the programs c [...]

When Congress finally passed a continuing resolution last month allowing the government to re-open, [...]

Upcoming Events

Friday, Feb. 16

12:00 PM

Crucial Conversation – Prof. Peter Edelman discusses his new book, Not a Crime to be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America

Prof. Edelman is coming to the Triangle to mark the 50th anniversary of Durham-based nonprofit MDC. His visit is the first of a series of MDC-sponsored events focused on ways that Southern leaders can work together to create an Infrastructure of Opportunity that shapes a South where all people thrive.”