In 2011 Participation Increased 7.2% in Food Stamps, But Fell 3.6% in TANF

The federal government recently released data showing that 69,634 (3.6%) fewer families received TANF in December 2011 (1,882,817) than in December 2010 (1,952,451).[1] The number of children receiving TANF in December 2011 (3,373,654) was just 20.5% of the number of poor children in 2010 (16,401,000).[2] While the poverty figures for 2011 haven’t been released yet, child poverty likely increased in 2011.

The number of households receiving Food Stamps (SNAP)[3] increased by 1,494,590 (7.2%) between December 2010 (20,668,184) and December 2011(22,162,474).[4] The Food Stamps increase suggests that the TANF decrease was due to states’ adoption of stricter TANF eligibility and access policies rather than to decreased family poverty.

This report supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.

[1] The TANF figures cited here are from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tables at The figures include families in separate state programs funded with maintenance of effort dollars.

[2] Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010, U.S. Census Bureau, P60-­­239 (2011), available at

[3] Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is now the Food Stamp program’s official name.

[4] Food Stamp receipt data is available at