This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Can You Live On Only Food Stamps?

It came to my attention today that Al Sharpton reported today on his MSNBC program that 6 million Americans had food stamps as their only source of income. The number was apparently drawn from a new book by Georgetown University law professor Peter Edeleman. This struck me as fundamentally impossible. Food stamps are officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program run by the US Department of Agriculture, in a joint venture with each state. The program provides recipients with a debit card that be used only for food and beverages. There's no wiggle room there for shelter or clothing or transportation, or anything else. Yet, I did find a table on the Census Bureau website showing that, based on sample data, an estimated 2.6 million households receiving food stamps reported that they had no source of income. If you multiply that by an average household size of 2.3 people (typically a mother and her young child/children), you could come up with the 6 million figure. They must be receiving assistance in some way, perhaps a combination of shelters and remittances or handouts from friends/relatives, or income earned "under the table." Regardless, that is not a very good life for a lot of people in this country.

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