Article

The Effects of Food Stamps on Obesity

Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance, Working Papers 01/2010;
Source: RePEc

ABSTRACT Evidence relating unemployment to health is found at every level of social science analysis from national population rates to individual psychophysiological stress response. At the population level of analysis, increase in the unemployment rate indicates recession and/or structural economic decline. At the individual level, unemployment is interpreted as a stressful life event. In both cases, inverse associations are found between measures of unemployment and indicators of health. We identify social science literatures associating health indicators with each of the following: economic growth, socioeconomic status, sociocultural change, economic instability, the status of being unemployed, social stress and work stress. Outstanding research issues include the requirements to identify and measure the effects of conditional factors and control variables in multivariate analysis and to examine a broader range of both severity of unemployment and severity of health outcomes. A research agenda proposes studies at the macro, meso and micro levels of analysis. We urge such research for its potential contribution both to analytic social science and to economic and social policy.

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    ABSTRACT: This study examines the dynamic relationship between a household’s Food Stamp Program (FSP) participation and the extent to which children in the household are overweight or obese. In contrast to previous studies employing static models, our results suggest that FSP participation significantly affects the deviation of current body mass index (BMI) from the ideal level in older male children who are currently underweight and for older female children who are already overweight. For older male children, the effect is desirable; for older females, however, our findings indicate that FSP participation has an adverse effect on their health and may contribute to being overweight or obese.
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    ABSTRACT: Does the Food Stamp Program (FSP), which provides in-kind transfers to low- income Americans, cause female participants to become obese? This question is particularly important because participants are substantially more likely to be obese than are nonparticipants. This paper estimates the effects of food stamp benefits on obesity, overweight and body mass index (BMI) of low-income women. Contrary to previous results, we find little evidence that the FSP causes obesity, overweight or higher BMI. Our analysis differs from previous research in three aspects. First, we exploit a rich longitudinal data set, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, to distinguish between full-time and part- time participation. Second, instead of making parametric assumptions on outcomes, we employ a variety of difference-in-difference matching estimators to control for selection bias. Third, we estimate both short-term (one-year participation) and long-term (three-year participation) treatment effects. Empirical results show that after controlling for selection bias and defining the treatment and comparison groups carefully, there is little evidence that food stamps are responsible for higher BMI or obesity in female participants. Our estimates are robust to different definitions of the treatment and comparison groups, and to various matching algorithms.
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    ABSTRACT: The impact of covariates on obesity in the US is investigated, with particular attention given to the role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The potential endogeneity of participation in SNAP is considered as a potential problem in investigating its causal influence on obesity using instrumental variable (IV) approaches. Due to the presence of heteroscedasticity in the errors, the approach for dealing with heteroscedastic errors in Geweke (1993) is extended to the Bayesian instrumental variable estimator outlined in Rossi et al. (2005). This approach leads to substantively different findings to a standard classical IV approach to correcting for heteroscedasticity. Although findings support the contention that the SNAP participation rate is associated with a greater prevalence of obesity, the evidence for this impact is substantially weakened when using the methods introduced in the paper.

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