Program Access Index (PAI)

CFPA's Program Access Index (PAI) estimates CalFresh utilization among
low-income individuals in each of California's 58 counties.

CFPA Primary Contact

Tia Shimada
Director of Programs
Oakland Office

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CalFresh page.

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Measuring CalFresh Utilization by County (2014)

Full Report

The Program Access Index: Measuring CalFresh Utilization by County PDF

County Data Tables

Tables showing the PAI for all California counties are available below.

What is the PAI?

Each year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produces an annual state-level PAI. The PAI provided on this page is a county-level analysis modeled on the USDA methodology.

The PAI estimates CalFresh utilization among individuals who meet select CalFresh eligibility criteria. More specifically, the PAI compares two populations: (1) CalFresh participants and (2) the number of individuals with incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty threshold1 who do not participate in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)2 or receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if those individuals have income below 125 percent of the federal poverty threshold 3. Because the PAI incorporates three select eligibility criteria, it is not a measure of CalFresh participation among fully eligible individuals.

PAI Equation

Interpreting the PAI

The county-level PAI is one indicator of how well counties reach individuals with CalFresh. On its own, the PAI is not a comprehensive tool for evaluating counties' administration of CalFresh. Advocates and administrators should work to establish the use of additional indicators in assessing CalFresh administrative performance.

The county-level PAI is not designed to definitively establish trends over time. There are two primary challenges with using the PAI in this manner:

  1. Methodological approaches may change over time, altering the comparability of PAI estimates calculated before and after each change. For example, CFPA's 2014 PAI incorporates county-specific estimates of SSI recipients with incomes below 125% of the federal poverty threshold. CFPA's 2012 PAI employed a different methodology, subtracting all SSI recipients from the PAI denominator.
  2. Income data from the American Community Survey are used to calculate the PAI. These data have a given level of precision expressed as a margin of error. Margins of error can make it difficult to distinguish true trends from variations inherent to the methods used for collecting and analyzing survey data.

Comparing the PAI and State Participation Rates

Each year, USDA releases SNAP/CalFresh participation rates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These participation rates are complex estimates of SNAP/CalFresh utilization among eligible individuals. The rates take into account several factors affecting SNAP/CalFresh eligibility and utilization. In comparison, the PAI takes into account three CalFresh eligibility criteria: income, FDPIR participation, and SSI status.

State participation rates for any given year are typically released two years following. In comparison, the PAI can be calculated within one year.

USDA state participation rates may be the best available estimates of CalFresh utilization among eligible individuals. However, the rates are calculated as statewide measures and have limited relevance at the county level, particularly in a state as diverse as California. USDA does not calculate county-level participation rates. Because CalFresh policies and practices vary across California counties, county-level indicators of utilization and administrative performance are necessary. The PAI is one such indicator.

PAI Tables

The tables below show the PAI for all 58 California counties and include county rankings. The number-one-ranked county has the highest CalFresh utilization relative to the total number individuals with incomes below 125 percent of poverty who do not participate in FDPIR or receive SSI.4 When applied to statewide data, the methodology used to generate Tables 1 and 2 yields a PAI of 0.580 for California.

Table 1 lists the counties alphabetically. Table 2 lists the counties by PAI rank.

Printable version of Tables 1 and 2 PDF

Table 1: PAI for all Counties Listed Alphabetically

PAI table with counties listed alphabetically

Table 2: PAI for all Counties Listed by Rank

PAI table with counties listed by rank

Table notes 1-2: The PAI is listed here with three significant digits. However, the PAI used to calculate the county ranking contained 15 significant digits. Viewed with four significant digits, Orange County's PAI is 0.5116 and Contra Costa County's PAI is 0.5115. Thus, their respective ranks are 41 and 42. Similarly, Mariposa County's PAI is 0.6373 and Kings County's PAI is 0.6369.


1 Until July 1, 2014 eligibility criteria for CalFresh allowed participants to have incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG). The 2014-15 State Budget included a provision to increase the gross income limit to 200% of the FPL for the TANF-funded service that confers categorical eligibility for all CalFresh households. Practically speaking, this change raised the CalFresh gross income limit from 130% FPL to 200% FPL. The net income limit of 100% still applies, except for households containing a senior or disabled member. (For more information on the opportunity to boost enrollment through modified categorical eligibility and the new gross income test, read our recent analysis.) Since the gross income limit changed mid-year, the 2014 PAI still utilizes the 130% FPL test. However, annual county-level estimates are not available for the number of individuals with incomes below 130 percent of FPG. Therefore, having an income below 125 percent of the federal poverty threshold is used as a proxy for CalFresh income eligibility. The use of this proxy may underestimate the number of individuals who are income-eligible for CalFresh.
2 FDPIR participants are not eligible for CalFresh.
3 In California, SSI recipients are not eligible for CalFresh/SNAP.
4 For Tables 1 and 2, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) participants with income below 125 percent of poverty are subtracted from the population of individuals who are income-eligible for CalFresh. Previous versions of CFPA's PAI report have subtracted all SSI recipients from the population of individuals who are income-eligible for CalFresh.