“I’ve seen a common theme in the comments section from the “America is falling into an abyss” crowd – the recent rise in food stamp usage. Without getting political, I figured I’d take a look at the raw data and see what we could conclude. Here goes nothing.
First of all, food stamp usage ALWAYS rises in a recession so the recent surge is not remotely surprising. As you can see in Figure 1 below, every recession since the 1970′s (when this data is first available) has seen a sharp increase in food stamp usage. I used a year over year rate of change in order to compare the current environment on an apples to apples basis with past events. It’s too easy to look at the “record high” or the headline figure in food stamps and simply conclude that things are worse than they’ve ever been. The reality is that food stamps rose at about a 20% year over year rate at the worst point in the current recession and has since declined to a 4.25% year over year pace. So, the rate of change is still positive, but it’s come way down from its worst levels….”