Signals: Foodstamps in the USA

I came across this interesting article on the Real Time Economics blog of the Wall Street Journal. It shows the growth of the food stamps program in the US by state between 2007 and 2011. I checked what Google Insights would have to say about searches which contain the phrase “food stamps” in the category Law & Government >Social Services > Welfare & Unemployment. Here is the Google Insights timeline which clearly shows a continuing surge in the same time interval for searches containing “food stamps”:


The state by state comparison is shown below. Whereas in early 2007 search intensity for food stamps looked like this:


by the end of 2011 the search intensity looked so:



The growth of the food stamp program as depicted in the WSJ article is shown below:


Two things are easy to notice: a. Google Insights captures the phenomenon fairly well but b. the ranking of state growth between Google Insights and WSJ graph is not quite the same. There appears to be a discrepancy between the official figures which come from the  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Google Insights measurements. I suspect this has partly to do with how Google chooses to (not) present the raw data and partly with such things as population, internet penetration, scaling etc.

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