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

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Almond & Hilary W. Hoynes & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2008. "Inside the War on Poverty: The Impact of Food Stamps on Birth Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 14306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14306
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Hilary W. Hoynes & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2009. "Consumption Responses to In-Kind Transfers: Evidence from the Introduction of the Food Stamp Program," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 109-139, October.
    3. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
    4. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 409-439.
    5. Oliveira, Victor & Racine, Elizabeth & Olmsted, Jennifer & Ghelfi, Linda M., 2002. "The Wic Program: Background, Trends, And Issues," Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Reports 33847, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 18(4), pages 695-713, November.
    9. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2004. "Women, War, and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Midcentury," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 497-551, June.
    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. Currie, Janet & Cole, Nancy, 1993. "Welfare and Child Health: The Link between AFDC Participation and Birth Weight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 971-985, September.
    12. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number moff03-1.
    13. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083.
    14. Corman, Hope & Grossman, Michael, 1985. "Determinants of neonatal mortality rates in the U.S. : A reduced form model," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 213-236, September.
    15. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1105-1166, December.
    16. repec:ucn:wpaper:10197/317 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. 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 781-798, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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