The Effects of Food Stamps on Obesity

Southern Economic Journal (Impact Factor: 0.63). 01/2011; 77(3):623-651. DOI: 10.4284/sej.2011.77.3.623
Source: RePEc


Poverty has historically been associated with a decrease in food consumption. This at least partially changed in 1964 when the Food Stamp Act began guaranteeing food for those in poverty. Since the act’s passage, the prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically, particularly among those with low incomes. This article examines the effects of the Food Stamp Program on the prevalence of obesity using 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data. Results indicate that food stamps have significant positive effects on obesity and the obesity gap for females, but these effects are relatively small, and consequently, such benefits are approximated to have played a minor role in increasing obesity at the aggregate level.

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    • "The theoretical ambiguity is matched in the empirical findings, where some have found SNAP to be associated with increases in obesity among young girls (Gibson 2004) and adult women (Baum 2011, Gibson 2003, Meyerhoefer and Pylypchuk 2008), while others have found SNAP to be associated with decreases in obesity among children (Kreider et al. forthcoming), young boys (Gibson 2004), and non-Hispanic, white men (Ver Ploeg et al. 2007). Further reflecting this theoretical ambiguity, studies have found no statistically significant effect of SNAP on obesity among older children (Gibson 2004), foreign-born, unmarried mothers (Kaushal 2007), children (Ver Ploeg et al. 2007), adult women (Fan 2010, Ver Ploeg et al. 2007), Mexican-American men (Ver Ploeg et al. 2007), and adult men (Baum 2011, Gibson 2003, Meyerhoefer and Pylypchuk 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest nutritional assistance program addressing food insecurity in the United States. Due to the program’s reach, SNAP has been called upon to address other nutrition-related challenges facing low-income Americans, including childhood obesity. This study considers the effect of SNAP participation on child weight outcomes after controlling for household financial stress, an important determinant of child overweight status that disproportionately affects low-income households. Using data from the Survey of Household Finances and Childhood Obesity and instrumental variable methods, we find that SNAP participation is negatively associated with obesity among eligible children.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2012 · Agricultural and Resource Economics Review
    • "Most of the previous studies reported a significant positive association of SNAP participation with adult body weight outcomes only among women (Baum, 2007; Chen et al., 2005; Gibson, 2003; Townsend et al., 2001; Zagorsky & Smith, 2009). Studies using longitudinal analyses reported a substantial decrease in the magnitude of the estimated association between SNAP participation and BMI (Baum, 2007; Gibson, 2003; Kaushal, 2007). Similarly, we found that the association was statistically insignificant when we controlled for the time invariant endogeneity of SNAP participation using a longitudinal individual fixed effects model. "
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    ABSTRACT: We explored the extent to which economic contextual factors moderated the association of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation with body mass index (BMI) among low-income adults whose family income (adjusted for family size) is less than 130% of the federal poverty guideline. We drew on individual-level data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics in the United States, including three waves of data in 1999, 2001, and 2003. Economic contextual data were drawn from the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association for food prices and Dun & Bradstreet for food outlet measures. In addition to cross-sectional estimation, a longitudinal individual fixed effects model was used to control for permanent unobserved individual heterogeneity. Our study found a statistically significant joint moderating effect of the economic contextual factors in longitudinal individual fixed effects model for both women (BMI only) and men (both BMI and obesity). For both women and men, SNAP participants' BMI was statistically significantly lower if they faced increased numbers of available supermarkets/grocery stores in the longitudinal model. A simulated 20% reduction in the price of fruits and vegetables resulted in a larger decrease in BMI among SNAP participants than non-participants for women and men, whereas a simulated 20% increase in the availability of supermarkets and grocery stores resulted in a statistically significant difference in the change in BMI by SNAP participation for women but not for men. Policies related to economic contextual factors, such as subsidies for fruits and vegetables or those that would improve access to supermarkets and grocery stores may enhance the relationship between SNAP participation and body mass outcomes among food assistance program participants.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2012 · Social Science [?] Medicine
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