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Codes and Frequencies

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FOODSTMP indicates whether one or more members of the household received benefits from the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the prior year. This program is formerly known as the Food Stamps program.

Once such a household was identified, three follow-up questions were asked. The first question determined the number of current household members covered by Food Stamps during the previous calendar year (STAMPNO). The second question determined the number of months that Food Stamps were received during the previous year (STAMPMO). Finally, a last question determined the total face value of Food Stamps received during that period (STAMPVAL).

The Food Stamp Act of 1977 was enacted to increase the food purchasing power of eligible households through the use of coupons to purchase food. The Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the Food Stamp Program through State and local welfare offices. The Food Stamp Program is the major national income support program which provides benefits to all low-income and low-resource households, regardless of the person's characteristics (e.g., sex, age, disability, etc.). The Food Stamps program was renamed SNAP as part of the Farm Bill of 2008.

For some variables relating to means-tested government assistance, including FOODSTMP, information was collected only from households whose estimated income fell below a given threshold. During the first month that a household entered the survey, and one year later, the CPS interviewer asked the respondent to estimate the family's total income in the past twelve months, by choosing one of fourteen broad categories. Only households in which the household members' combined income fell below a given level (e.g., under 30,000 dollars in the 1980s) were questioned about means-tested program benefits. Households with estimated incomes above the threshold were presumed to neither qualify for nor receive such benefits, and were not asked these questions, to limit the length of interviews. Households that were not questioned were coded as "no" for several variables relating to the receipt of means-tested benefits, including FOODSTMP.


This variable is comparable across years.

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

The FOODSTMP question in IPUMS-CPS asks about recipiency at any time during the previous calendar year. In IPUMS-USA, the 2000-2004 ACS samples collected information about Food Stamps received during the preceding twelve months. A change in questions resulted in a large drop in reported food stamp receipt in the 2011 ASEC file, even though administrative data showed an increase. Because of this, the Census Bureau performed additional imputations to adjust levels upward. Cases where food stamp receipt was edited due to this adjustment are noted in the imputation flag. In the 2012 ASEC the food stamp questions were changed back to be more in line with 2010 and earlier years.


  • All interviewed households and group quarters.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1980 – 2023 - - X - - - - - - - - -


This variable has no flags.

Unharmonized Variables