Thursday, February 2, 2017


Many low-income parents find that getting a job or a wage hike can trigger a reduction in or termination of their safety net benefits, resulting in a net loss of income. This problem is known as the “cliff effect,” and it poses a problem for SNAP participants. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston recently analyzed data from 21,781 low-income families with children under age four.  Of the total sample, 10% of the families had their SNAP benefits lowered, and 14% lost some of their benefits. While these numbers show that SNAP eligibility criteria soften the cliff effect, the effects on the affected children were significant. Compared to young children whose families consistently received SNAP, young children in households that lost their SNAP benefits were:

  • 16% more likely to be in fair or poor health,
  • 77% more likely to be at risk of developmental delays,
  • 78% more likely to be child food insecure, and
  • 68% more likely to have had to forgo needed health care because the family could not afford it.

And, young children in households whose SNAP benefit had been reduced were also more likely to be at risk for negative health and nutrition impacts when compared to young children whose families consistently received SNAP.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 1/17/17, SNAP Cliff