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Food Insecurity and Public Assistance

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  • George J. Borjas

Abstract

This paper examines the extent to which welfare programs reduce the probability that vulnerable household are food insecure, where food insecurity occurs when the household experiences food deprivation because of financial resource constraints. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made fundamental changes in the federal system of public assistance, and specifically limited the eligibility of immigrant households to receive many types of aid. Many states chose to protect their immigrant populations from the presumed effects of PRWORA by offering state- funded assistance to these groups. I exploit these exogenous changes in eligibility rules to examine the link between food insecurity and public assistance. The data indicate that those immigrants most likely to be adversely affected by the welfare reform legislation experienced a sizable relative decline in the probability of welfare receipt, and a substantial relative increase in the probability of food insecurity. The evidence suggests that a cut of 10 percentage points in the fraction of the population that receives public assistance increases the fraction of households experiencing food insecurity by 5 percentage points. The data, therefore, provide some evidence to support the hypothesis that welfare programs achieve one of their key objectives, providing households with a minimal level of food sufficiency.

Suggested Citation

  • George J. Borjas, 2001. "Food Insecurity and Public Assistance," JCPR Working Papers 243, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:243
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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