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Social Assistance Programs and Outcomes: Food Assistance in the Context of Welfare Reform


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  • Huffman, Sonya K.
  • Jensen, Helen H.


Food assistance programs play an important role in meeting the basic needs of low-income households. We consider the complex interactions among food stamps, labor force participation, and food insecurity status of low-income households under different program designs and economic conditions. The analysis uses data from the Survey of Program Dynamics to jointly estimate the role of participation in the Food Stamp Program (FSP), labor market participation and well-being, measured as food security, through the use of a simultaneous equation model. The results of our research suggest that food insecurity has a positive effect on FSP participation while labor force participation reduces FSP participation. Furthermore, FSP participation is more responsive to changes in the program benefits than to changes in nonlabor income. The linkages among food program participation, labor force participation, and well-being, measured in terms of food insecurity, are complex. The structural approach provides evidence that, among low-income households, program parameters affect FSP participation but no evidence that the food assistance reduces food insecurity.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 10566.

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Date of creation: 16 Jun 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Social Science Quarterly, March 2008, vol. 89 no. 1, pp. 95-115
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:10566

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Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
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  1. Moffitt, Robert, 1983. "An Economic Model of Welfare Stigma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1023-35, December.
  2. Jensen, Helen H., 2002. "Food Insecurity and the Food Stamp Program," Staff General Research Papers, Iowa State University, Department of Economics 10161, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  3. Mallar, Charles D, 1977. "The Estimation of Simultaneous Probability Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1717-22, October.
  4. Fraker, Thomas & Moffitt, Robert, 1988. "The effect of food stamps on labor supply : A bivariate selection model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 25-56, February.
  5. Craig Gundersen & Victor Oliveira, 2001. "The Food Stamp Program and Food Insufficiency," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 83(4), pages 875-887.
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