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Do Food Stamps Contribute to Obesity in Low-Income Women? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979

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  • Maoyong Fan

    (Department of Economics, Ball State University)

Abstract

Does the Food Stamp Program (FSP), which provides in-kind transfers to low- income Americans, cause female participants to become obese? This question is particularly important because participants are substantially more likely to be obese than are nonparticipants. This paper estimates the effects of food stamp benefits on obesity, overweight and body mass index (BMI) of low-income women. Contrary to previous results, we find little evidence that the FSP causes obesity, overweight or higher BMI. Our analysis differs from previous research in three aspects. First, we exploit a rich longitudinal data set, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, to distinguish between full-time and part- time participation. Second, instead of making parametric assumptions on outcomes, we employ a variety of difference-in-difference matching estimators to control for selection bias. Third, we estimate both short-term (one-year participation) and long-term (three-year participation) treatment effects. Empirical results show that after controlling for selection bias and defining the treatment and comparison groups carefully, there is little evidence that food stamps are responsible for higher BMI or obesity in female participants. Our estimates are robust to different definitions of the treatment and comparison groups, and to various matching algorithms.

Suggested Citation

  • Maoyong Fan, 2010. "Do Food Stamps Contribute to Obesity in Low-Income Women? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979," Working Papers 201005, Ball State University, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:bsu:wpaper:201005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra E. Todd, 1997. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator: Evidence from Evaluating a Job Training Programme," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 605-654.
    2. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    3. Alberto Abadie & Guido W. Imbens, 2002. "Simple and Bias-Corrected Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects," NBER Technical Working Papers 0283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lorenzo Almada & Ian McCarthy & Rusty Tchernis, 2016. "What Can We Learn about the Effects of Food Stamps on Obesity in the Presence of Misreporting?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 98(4), pages 997-1017.
    2. Charles J. Courtemanche & Joshua C. Pinkston & Christopher J. Ruhm & George L. Wehby, 2016. "Can Changing Economic Factors Explain the Rise in Obesity?," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 82(4), pages 1266-1310, April.
    3. 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.
    4. MacEwan, Joanna P. & Smith, Aaron & Alston, Julian M., 2016. "The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, energy balance, and weight gain," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 103-120.
    5. Mays, Matthew & Smith, Travis A., 2018. "How Does SNAP Participation Affect Rates of Diabetes?," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 273905, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Courtemanche, Charles & Pinkston, Joshua C. & Stewart, Jay, 2015. "Adjusting body mass for measurement error with invalid validation data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 275-293.
    7. Maoyong Fan & Yanhong Jin, 2015. "The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Childhood Obesity in the United States: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997," American Journal of Health Economics, MIT Press, vol. 1(4), pages 432-460, Fall.
    8. Susan Chen & Le Wang, 2021. "SNAP participation, diet quality, and obesity: robust evidence with estimation techniques without external instrumental variables," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 61(3), pages 1641-1667, September.
    9. Li, Xun & Wang, Rui, 2016. "Spatial Convergence of US Obesity Rates and Its Determinants," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235617, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    10. Lee, Ji Yong & Nayga Jr, Rodolfo M. & Jo, Young & Restrepo, Brandon J., 2022. "Time use and eating patterns of SNAP participants over the benefit month," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 106(C).
    11. Hilary Hoynes & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2015. "US Food and Nutrition Programs," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, Volume 1, pages 219-301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Susan Chen & Le Wang, 0. "SNAP participation, diet quality, and obesity: robust evidence with estimation techniques without external instrumental variables," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-27.
    13. Just, David R. & Gabrielyan, Gnel, 2018. "Influencing the food choices of SNAP consumers: Lessons from economics, psychology and marketing," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 309-317.

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    Keywords

    Food Stamp Program; Obesity; Body Mass Index; Propensity Score Matching;
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