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Food Insecurity and Public Assistance

  • George J. Borjas

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.

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Paper provided by Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research in its series JCPR Working Papers with number 243.

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Date of creation: 06 Nov 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:243
Contact details of provider: Postal: Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, 1155 E. 60th Street Chicago, IL 60637
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Web page: http://www.jcpr.org/wp/ByDate.html
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  1. Browning, Martin & Crossley, Thomas F., 2001. "Unemployment insurance benefit levels and consumption changes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 1-23, April.
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  4. Rebecca M. Blank, 1999. "What Goes Up Must Come Down? Explaining Recent Changes in Public Assistance Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 78, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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  8. Borjas, George J & Hilton, Lynette, 1996. "Immigration and the Welfare State: Immigrant Participation in Means-Tested Entitlement Programs," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 575-604, May.
  9. Robert F. Schoeni & Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure," NBER Working Papers 7627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Orazio P. Attanasio & Guglielmo Weber, 1994. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," NBER Working Papers 4795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Joseph Altonji & David Card, 1989. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcome of Less-Skilled Natives," Working Papers 636, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  13. Angrist, Joshua D & Krueger, Alan B, 1995. "Split-Sample Instrumental Variables Estimates of the Return to Schooling," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 225-35, April.
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  16. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 192-205, March.
  17. Robert J. LaLonde & Robert H. Topel, 1991. "Labor Market Adjustments to Increased Immigration," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 167-199 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. David N. Figlio & Craig Gundersen & James P. Ziliak, 2000. "The Effects of the Macroeconomy and Welfare Reform on Food Stamp Caseloads," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(3), pages 635-641.
  19. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1989. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Natives," NBER Working Papers 3123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. George J. Borjas & Stephen J. Trejo, 1991. "Immigrant participation in the welfare system," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 44(2), pages 195-211, January.
  21. 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.
  22. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1993. "Split Sample Instrumental Variables," Working Papers 699, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  23. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1980. "Social Insurance and Consumption: An Empirical Inquiry," NBER Working Papers 0600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
  25. J. P. Ziliak & C. Gundersen & D. N. Figlio, . "Welfare Reform and Food Stamp Caseload Dynamics," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1215-00, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  26. Jayanta Bhattacharya & Steven Haider & Janet Currie, 2002. "Food Insecurity or Poverty? Measuring Need-Related Dietary Adequacy," NBER Working Papers 9003, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Nord, Mark, 2005. "Measuring U.S. Household Food Security," Amber Waves, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April.
  28. Francine D. Blau, 1984. "The use of transfer payments by immigrants," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 37(2), pages 222-239, January.
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