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Inside the War on Poverty: The Impact of Food Stamps on Birth Outcomes

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  • Douglas Almond
  • Hilary W. Hoynes
  • Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Abstract

This paper evaluates the health impact of a signature initiative of the War on Poverty: the roll out of the modern Food Stamp Program (FSP) during the 1960s and early 1970s. Using variation in the month the FSP began operating in each U.S. county, we find that pregnancies exposed to the FSP three months prior to birth yielded deliveries with increased birth weight, with the largest gains at the lowest birth weights. These impacts are evident with difference-in-difference models and event study analyses. Estimated impacts are robust to inclusion of county fixed effects, time fixed effects, measures of other federal transfer spending, state by year fixed effects, and county-specific linear time trends. We also find that the FSP rollout leads to small, but statistically insignificant, improvements in neonatal infant mortality. We conclude that the sizeable increase in income from Food Stamp benefits improved birth outcomes for both whites and African Americans, with larger impacts for births to African American mothers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14306.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Publication status: published as Douglas Almond & Hilary W. Hoynes & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2011. "Inside the War on Poverty: The Impact of Food Stamps on Birth Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 387-403, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14306

Note: CH LS PE
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  1. Janet Currie, 2009. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 87-122, March.
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  4. Hilary W. Hoynes & Diane Schanzenbach, 2007. "Consumption Responses to In-Kind Transfers: Evidence from the Introduction of the Food Stamp Program," NBER Working Papers 13025, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Deaton, A., 2001. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Papers 200, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
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  7. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2004. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 10552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Currie, J. & Cole, N., 1992. "Welfare and Child Health: the Link Between AFDC Participation and Birth Weight," Working papers 92-9, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  10. Michael Grossman & Steven Jacobowitz, 1981. "Variations in Infant Mortality Rates among Counties in the United States: The Roles of Social Policies and Programs," NBER Working Papers 0615, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2002. "Women, War and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Mid-Century," NBER Working Papers 9013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Janet Currie & Nancy Cole, 1991. "Does Participation in Transfer Programs During Pregnancy Improve Birth Weight?," NBER Working Papers 3832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Michael Grossman & Steven Jacobowitz, 1981. "Variations in infant mortality rates among counties of the United States: The roles of public policies and programs," Demography, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 695-713, November.
  14. Butler, J S & Raymond, Jennie E, 1996. "The Effect of the Food Stamp Program on Nutrient Intake," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(4), pages 781-98, October.
  15. Barbara H. Kehrer & Charles M. Wolin, 1979. "Impact of Income Maintenance on Low Birth Weight: Evidence from the Gary Experiment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(4), pages 434-462.
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Cited by:
  1. von Hinke Kessler Scholder, SM, . "School meal crowd out in the 1980s," Working Papers 6942, Imperial College, London, Imperial College Business School.
  2. Charles L. Baum II, 2010. "The Effects of Food Stamps on Weight Gained by Expectant Mothers," Working Papers 201002, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
  3. Rossin-Slater, Maya, 2013. "WIC in your neighborhood: New evidence on the impacts of geographic access to clinics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 51-69.
  4. Bejenariu, Simona & Mitrut, Andreea, 2012. "Austerity Measures and Infant Health. Lessons from an Unexpected Wage Cut Policy," Working Paper Series 2012:4, Uppsala University, Department of Economics, revised 10 Oct 2013.
  5. Lindo, Jason M., 2011. "Parental job loss and infant health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 869-879.
  6. Burlando, Alfredo, 2014. "Transitory shocks and birth weights: Evidence from a blackout in Zanzibar," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 154-168.
  7. Almond, Douglas & Currie, Janet & Herrmann, Mariesa, 2012. "From infant to mother: Early disease environment and future maternal health," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 475-483.
  8. Ganong, Peter & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2013. "The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in SNAP Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes," Working Paper Series rwp13-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. Naci Mocan & Christian Raschke & Bulent Unel, 2013. "The Impact of Mothers’ Earnings on Health Inputs and Infant Health," NBER Working Papers 19434, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Lisa Schulkind, 2013. "Getting a Sporting Chance: Title IX and the Intergenerational Transmission of Health," Working Papers 1305, Trinity College, Department of Economics.
  11. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-72, Summer.
  12. Charles Baum, 2012. "The effects of food stamp receipt on weight gained by expectant mothers," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 25(4), pages 1307-1340, October.
  13. Rucker C. Johnson, 2011. "Long-run Impacts of School Desegregation & School Quality on Adult Attainments," NBER Working Papers 16664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Anna Aizer & Shari Eli & Joseph P. Ferrie & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2014. "The Long Term Impact of Cash Transfers to Poor Families," NBER Working Papers 20103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Chad D. Meyerhoefer & Muzhe Yang, 2011. "The Relationship between Food Assistance and Health: A Review of the Literature and Empirical Strategies for Identifying Program Effects," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 33(3), pages 304-344.
  16. Nicholas, Lauren Hersch, 2011. "Can Food Stamps help to reduce Medicare spending on diabetes?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 1-13, January.

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