Federal Study On Effectiveness Of Food Stamps Nearly Absent From TV News

On April 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study finding that food stamps reduced the “prevalence, depth, and severity” of poverty between 2000 and 2009 and that their effects were especially strong during the recession, thanks to the stimulus. Television news outlets have all but ignored this story-- it has been mentioned only once on broadcast and cable news programming since April 9.

USDA Study: Food Stamps Reduced “Prevalence, Depth, And Severity Of Poverty” From 2000-09

USDA: Food Stamp Benefits Led To “Average Decline Of 4.4 Percent In The Prevalence Of Poverty” Between 2000 and 2009. The study released on April 9, “Alleviating Poverty in the United States: The Critical Role of SNAP Benefits,” explored how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) affected “poverty from 2000 to 2009.” The study found “an average decline of 4.4 percent in the prevalence of poverty due to SNAP benefits, while the average decline in the depth and severity of poverty was 10.3 and 13.2 percent, respectively.” [ERS.USDA.gov, accessed 4/17/12]

Study: Food Stamps' “Antipoverty Effect Was Strongest In 2009, When Benefit Increases Were Authorized By ... The Stimulus Package.” A summary of the study also stated:

SNAP's antipoverty effect was strongest in 2009, when benefit increases were authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the stimulus package. In 2009, SNAP benefits:

  • Reduced the depth of child poverty by 20.9 percent and the severity of child poverty by 27.5 percent.
  • Ensured that the depth and severity of poverty in the overall population increased only slightly from their 2008 levels despite worsening economic conditions. ["Alleviating Poverty in the United States: The Critical Role of SNAP Benefits," ERS.USDA.gov, April 2012]

NY Times: Study Showed Food Stamps “Reduced The Poverty Rate By Nearly 8 Percent In 2009.” From an April 9 New York Times article about the USDA study:

A new study by the Agriculture Department has found that food stamps, one of the country's largest social safety net programs, reduced the poverty rate substantially during the recent recession. The food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year included in the study, a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policy makers.

The food stamp program is one of the largest antipoverty efforts in the country, serving more than 46 million people. But the extra income it provides is not counted in the government's formal poverty measure, an omission that makes it difficult for officials to see the effects of the policy and get an accurate figure for the number of people beneath the poverty threshold, which was about $22,000 for a family of four in 2009.


The study, which examined nine years of data, tried to measure the program's effects on people whose incomes remained below the poverty threshold. The program lifted the average poor person's income up about six percent closer to the line over the length of the study, making poverty less severe. When the benefits were included in the income of families with children, the result was that children below the threshold moved about 11 percent closer to the line.

The program had a stronger effect on children because they are more likely to be poor and they make up about half of the program's participants. [The New York Times, 4/9/12]

All Network And Most Cable News Channels Have Not Mentioned The Study; MSNBC Mentioned It Once

No Broadcast TV News Outlet Has Mentioned The Study. A search of network television news transcripts available in the Nexis database did not yield any relevant results.

Only One Cable News Channel Mentioned The Study -- Once. A Nexis search of cable news transcripts yielded one relevant hit -- transcript from the April 10 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation. Host Al Sharpton said during the show, “A new government study shows that food stamps have lowered the poverty rate by nearly eight percent in 2009.” From PoliticsNation:

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Republicans have spent a lot of time demonizing people who relied on food stamps to feed their families.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No program in our government has surged out of control more dramatically than food stamps.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama is the most effective food stamp president in American history. No president has put more people on food stamps than Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Multimillion dollar lottery winners are getting food stamps.

HERMAN CAIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you don`t have a job and you`re not rich, blame yourself.


SHARPTON: They also love attacking programs that help the poor. The new Paul Ryan budget would cut food stamp funding by $133 billion over ten years. But in this debate, facts matter. And I have some food for thought for the GOP. Food stamps actually help reduce poverty. A new government study shows that food stamps have lowered the poverty rate by nearly eight percent in 2009. The most recent data in the study. The food stamp program also lifted more than five million people including over two million children above the poverty line in 2010. Facts matter Republicans. Food stamps are helping people. I think it`s time Republicans stick a fork in their attacks on food stamp. [MSNBC, PoliticsNation, 4/10/12, via Nexis]


Media Matters conducted a search of transcripts available in the Nexis database from CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, and ABC that mentioned food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and poverty.