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The Effects of Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on the Material Hardship of Low-Income Families with Children

May 2011

H. Luke Shaefer and Italo Gutierrez, University of Michigan.

Download '2011-18 NPC Working Paper Revised'.


This study examines the effects of participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance

Program (SNAP) on measures of the material hardship of low-income families with children, beyond food insecurity. Using the 1996-2004 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we utilize a bivariate probit approach that exploits variation in states’ SNAP eligibility policies over time as instruments to identify the treatment effects of interest. In our main models, we use changes in state recertification period lengths and use of biometric requirements as instruments. We also report on models that use state-year SNAP take-up rates as an instrument. We find a statistically significant and substantively large negative relationship between SNAP participation and both food insecurity and the ability of families to pay essential household expenses, particularly, housing expenses. We find some, although not conclusive, evidence that SNAP decreases the probability that families will fall behind in their utility costs.

Food Assistance Programs and Food Security, Social Welfare Programs and Policies