“Long Run Effects of Food Assistance: Evidence from the Food Stamp Program”
Over the last decade, a body of work studying the rollout of the safety net in the U.S.—with a focus in particular on programs which were created or greatly expanded during the War on Poverty—has given us evidence about short-run and particularly long-run positive effects of these programs. In particular, papers focused on the rollout of the Food Stamp Program compare outcomes in counties where the program was implemented earlier versus later, controlling for national shocks and time-invariant differences across locations (e.g., Hoynes, Schanzenbach, and Almond, 2016). We take advantage of this same variation in the timing of Food Stamp adoption and combine it with rich administrative data on earnings and involvement with the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) from the Continuous Work History Sample. Thus, our key independent variable is the share of time an adult was exposed to the Food Stamp Program from conception through age 5. Our dependent variables are administrative measures of earnings and involvement with the SSDI system. These administrative panel data are available for people whose Social Security Numbers are a one percent sample of Social Security Numbers ever issued. Restricting ourselves to natives born between 1955 and 1980 where we can link their place of birth to the data on the rollout of food stamps, we have a sample of nearly 1 million individuals. We model outcomes as a function of dummy variables for year of birth, county of birth, for being white, and where relevant, for age, and stratify by gender. For women, living in a county where Food Stamps were available for theentire time from conception to age 5 leads to an increase in total earnings of around 3% at age 32. Effects for men are more varied. There is no impact on use of the SSDI system for either gender across their life cycle. These findings suggests important positive long-run effects of the Food Stamp Program.
Marianne Bitler is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Davis; a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research; and a Research Fellow at IZA. She received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998. Her research focuses on the effects of the US social safety net on poverty, income, human capital, and health; economics of the family; economics of education; and healtheconomics. She is currently serving as chair of a National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Panel on Improving Consumer Data for Food and Nutrition Policy Research for the Economic Research Service, USDA.