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Identifying the Effects of SNAP (Food Stamps) on Child Health Outcomes When Participation is Endogenous and Misreported

  • Kreider, Brent
  • Pepper, John V.
  • Gundersen, Craig
  • Jolliffe, Dean

The literature assessing the efficacy of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, has long puzzled over positive associations between SNAP receipt and various undesirable health outcomes such as food insecurity. Assessing the causal impacts of SNAP, however, is hampered by two key identification problems: endogenous selection into participation and extensive systematic underreporting of participation status. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), we extend partial identification bounding methods to account for these two identification problems in a single unifying framework. Specifically, we derive informative bounds on the average treatment effect of SNAP on child food insecurity, general poor health, obesity, and anemia across a range of different assumptions used to address the selection and classification error problems. In particular, to address the selection problem we apply relatively weak nonparametric assumptions on the latent outcomes, selected treatments, and observed covariates. To address the classification error problem, we formalize a new approach that uses auxiliary administrative data on the size of the SNAP caseload to restrict the magnitudes and patterns of SNAP reporting errors. Layering successively stronger assumptions, an objective of our analysis is to make transparent how the strength of the conclusions varies with the strength of the identifying assumptions. Under the weakest restrictions, there is substantial ambiguity: we cannot rule out the possibility that SNAP increases or decreases poor health. Under stronger but plausible assumptions used to address the selection and classification error problems, we find that commonly cited relationships between SNAP and poor health outcomes provide a misleading picture about the true impacts of the program. Our tightest bounds identify favorable impacts of SNAP on child health.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 13124.

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Date of creation: 29 Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of the American Statistical Association, September 2012, vol. 107 no. 499, pp. 958-975
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:13124
Contact details of provider: 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. Charles F. Manski & John V. Pepper, 1998. "Monotone Instrumental Variables: With an Application to the Returns to Schooling," Virginia Economics Online Papers 308, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  2. Kreider, Brent & Hill, Steven C., 2005. "Partially Identifying Treatment Effects with an Application to Covering the Uninsured," Staff General Research Papers 12296, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. Molinari, Francesca, 2005. "Missing Treatments," Working Papers 05-11, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  5. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," NBER Working Papers 8344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kreider, Brent & Pepper, John V., 2003. "Inferring Disability Status from Corrupt Data," Staff General Research Papers 10228, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Neeraj Kaushal, 2007. "Do Food Stamps Cause Obesity? Evidence from Immigrant Experience," NBER Working Papers 12849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Meyerhoefer, Chad D. & Pylypchuk, Vuriy, 2008. "AJAE Appendix: Does Participation in the Food Stamp Program Increase the Prevalence of Obesity and Health Care Spending?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics Appendices, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 90(2), May.
  9. Guido W. Imbens & Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Confidence Intervals for Partially Identified Parameters," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(6), pages 1845-1857, November.
  10. Charles F. Manski, 1997. "Monotone Treatment Response," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(6), pages 1311-1334, November.
  11. Bollinger, Christopher R., 1996. "Bounding mean regressions when a binary regressor is mismeasured," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 387-399, August.
  12. Craig Gundersen & Victor Oliveira, 2001. "The Food Stamp Program and Food Insufficiency," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 83(4), pages 875-887.
  13. Craig Gundersen & Susan Offutt, 2005. "Farm Poverty and Safety Nets," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(4), pages 885-899.
  14. Kreider, Brent & Pepper, John V., 2007. "Disability and Employment: Reevaluating the Evidence in Light of Reporting Errors," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 102, pages 432-441, June.
  15. Janet Currie, 2003. "U.S. Food and Nutrition Programs," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 199-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Nord, Mark & Andrews, Margaret S. & Carlson, Steven, 2008. "Household Food Security in the United States, 2007," Economic Research Report 56483, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  17. Moffitt, Robert, 1983. "An Economic Model of Welfare Stigma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1023-35, December.
  18. Bhattacharya, Jayanta & Currie, Janet & Haider, Steven, 2004. "Poverty, food insecurity, and nutritional outcomes in children and adults," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 839-862, July.
  19. John V. Pepper, 2000. "The Intergenerational Transmission Of Welfare Receipt: A Nonparametric Bounds Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 472-488, August.
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