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The Effect of Safety Net Programs on Food Insecurity

Listed author(s):
  • Lucie Schmidt
  • Lara Shore-Sheppard
  • Tara Watson

Does the safety net reduce food insecurity in families? In this paper we investigate how the structure of benefits for five major safety net programs - TANF, SSI, EITC, food assistance, and Medicaid - affects low food security in families. We build a calculator for the years 2001-2009 to impute eligibility and benefits for these programs in each state, taking into account cross-program eligibility rules. To identify a causal effect of the safety net, we use simulated eligibility and benefits for a nationally representative sample as instruments for imputed eligibility and potential benefits. We also perform a two-sample instrumental variables estimation in which we use simulated benefits as instruments for actual reported benefits. Focusing on non-immigrant, single-parent families with incomes below 300 percent of the poverty line, the results suggest that each $1000 in cash or food benefits actually received reduces the incidence of low food security by 4 percentage points. These estimates imply that moving from the policies of the 10th percentile state of Kentucky to the 90th percentile state of Vermont would reduce low food security by 1.7 percentage points on a base incidence of 33 percent. We are unable to reject equivalent impacts of cash and food assistance. The results also highlight the importance of jointly considering a full range of safety net programs.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19558.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19558.

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Date of creation: Oct 2013
Publication status: published as Lucie Schmidt & Lara Shore-Sheppard & Tara Watson, 2016. "The Effect of Safety-Net Programs on Food Insecurity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(3), pages 589-614.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19558
Note: CH HE LS PE
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  1. Craig Gundersen & Brent Kreider, 2008. "Food Stamps and Food Insecurity: What Can Be Learned in the Presence of Nonclassical Measurement Error?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(2), pages 352-382.
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  6. Lucie Schmidt & Lara Shore-Sheppard & Tara Watson, 2013. "The Effect of Safety Net Programs on Food Insecurity," NBER Working Papers 19558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Robert Breunig & Indraneel Dasgupta, 2005. "Do Intra-Household Effects Generate the Food Stamp Cash-Out Puzzle?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(3), pages 552-568.
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  9. Neumark, David & Wascher, William, 2001. "Using the EITC to Help Poor Families: New Evidence and a Comparison With the Minimum Wage," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(2), pages 281-318, June.
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  18. Peiyun She Gina Livermore, 2007. "Material Hardship Poverty and Disability Among WorkingAge Adults," Mathematica Policy Research Reports fb2c5aebc38446e3ab7f48e96, Mathematica Policy Research.
  19. 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.
  20. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
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  22. Elton Mykerezi & Bradford Mills, 2010. "The Impact of Food Stamp Program Participation on Household Food Insecurity," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1379-1391.
  23. Peiyun She & Gina A. Livermore, 2007. "Material Hardship, Poverty, and Disability Among Working-Age Adults," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 88(4), pages 970-989.
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