Method: This study used a nationally representative sample (n=6,100) of the refugees who entered the U.S between 2013 to 2017. The data was obtained from the 2018 Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR) from participants aged 16 years or older who completed telephone interviews. The associations between receiving SNAP benefits (no/yes), and English proficiency (not at all, not well, well, very well) and sociodemographic characteristics (i.e., gender, marital status, age, employment, education, length of stay, state resettled, country of origin and health/mental health condition) were examined using logistic regression analysis.
Results: The findings revealed that refugee women (OR= 1.22, p<.001) had higher odds of receiving SNAP. The unmarried (OR=.66, p<.001) and employed refugees (OR=.68; p<.001) had lower odds of receiving SNAP benefits. Refugees who entered the U.S in 2015 (OR=1.42; p<.001), 2016 (OR=1.33; p<.001), and 2017 or later (OR=1.96; p<.001) had higher odds of receiving SNAP benefits. Refugees who resettled in the South (OR=.37; p<.001), Midwest (OR=.58; p<.001), and West (OR=.55; p<.001) had lower odds of receiving SNAP benefits. Refugees from Iraq (OR=2.21, p<.001) and Somalia (OR=5.46, p<.001 ) had the highest odds of receiving SNAP benefits. Additionally, refugees with physical or mental health conditions (OR=1.61; p<.001) had higher odds of receiving SNAP benefits. Regarding English proficiency, refugees who indicated that their English proficiency was “not well” (OR=.75, p<.01) and “not at all” proficient (OR=.76; p<.01) had lower odds of receiving SNAP benefits.
Conclusions and Implications: SNAP helps many refugees to receive nutrition assistance during their early resettlement phase. These results indicated that being a female refugee and having some form of physical or mental health condition led to higher chance of receiving SNAP benefits. In addition, refugees with lower English proficiency were less likely to receive SNAP benefits. Speaking English can lead to knowledge about available public programs, but limited English may slow integration and lead to lower income and higher dependence on public programs, such as SNAP. While this study highlights the importance of SNAP benefits among refugees, further research is needed to determine socio-economic trajectories that can improve self-reliance, reduce dependence on welfare programs, increase employment and education opportunities in career development, provide greater and continued access to ESL classes to the refugees, and provide specific programs targeted at refugees with some form of disability.
Keywords: Refugees, Resettlement, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), English proficiency