UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Marianne Bitler, University of California, Davis

Long Run Effects of Food Assistance: Evidence from the Food Stamp Program

Date and Location

Thursday, February 11, 2021, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
Online Meeting, Zoom


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 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, employment, and involvement with the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI). 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. 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 the entire time from conception through age 5 leads to an increase in total earnings of around 3% at age 32 but has no effect on employment. Effects for men are more varied. There is no impact on use of the SSDI system for either gender across the range of years we have data. These findings suggest important positive long-run effects of the Food Stamp Program.

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