Posted on September 1, 2004

Study: Half Of Americans Will Use Food Stamps (Fla.), Aug. 25

ITHICA, N.Y. — To be worry-free about having enough food is not the norm in the United States, according to a Cornell University sociologist.

“Rather, the need to use food stamps is a common American experience that at least half of all Americans between the ages of 20 and 65 will face,” said Thomas A. Hirschl, professor of development sociology at Cornell who completed a study of food stamp use.

Race and education, Hirschl said, have dramatic links to food stamp use.

According to the study, more than 85 percent of African-Americans will use food stamps sometime between the ages of 20 and 65, compared with 37 percent of white Americans.

About 64 percent of adults with less than 12 years of education will use food stamps, compared with 38 percent of adults with 12 or more years of education.

The study, co-authored with Mark R. Rank, professor of social work at Washington University, will be published in the December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

The researchers found that about one-quarter of white males with 12 or more years of education will use food stamps, while more than 90 percent of black females with less than 12 years of education will use food stamps some time between ages 20 and 65.

“We also find that while the use of food stamps is often brief, of those who have used food stamps once, about three-quarters will use them again in a different year,” said Hirschl.

“These findings are in sharp contrast to the belief that the use of the nation’s food nutrition safety net is something that happens to someone else and is atypical of the American experience,” Hirschl added.

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