U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Pulling Together, 2 April 2012


The SNAP-UI Data Linkage Project is an effort coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture‘s Economic Research Service (ERS) to link state-level administrative data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) program to examine the concurrent and sequential patterns in use of these program before and during the Great Recession. The project focuses on calendar years 2006 through 2009 and utilizes data from seven states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and Texas. The project has illuminated various issues with administrative data linkage, which this paper characterizes as the ―”Three C’s" of administrative data: custody, confidentiality, and consistency.

From the outset, ERS had three primary hypotheses: 1) The low rate of concurrent SNAP-UI receipt in existing data understates the total connection between SNAP and UI benefits because people tend to take up nutrition benefits only after UI claims are exhausted. 2) Both the concurrent and sequential links between SNAP and UI grew during the recession. 3) As the economy worsened, the lag between UI exhaustion and SNAP take-up declined. After the discussion of data issues, preliminary project results are presented (current as of December 2011). These early results confirm the first hypothesis but show that the sequential connection between the programs is not as large as expected. The second hypothesis is confirmed. The third hypothesis is still being explored.