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Food Stamps and the Elderly: Why is Participation So Low?

February 2003

Steven J. Haider, Department of Economics, Michigan State University. Robert F. Schoeni, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Alison Jacknowitz, RAND Graduate School.

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Estimates imply that only one-third of elderly persons who are eligible for food stamps actually participate in the program, which is half the rate that exists among younger people. This study investigates potential reasons for the relatively low take-up rate among the elderly. Analyzing new data, we conclude that the low take-up rate is not explained by measurement error and little is explained by various behavioral factors. Despite this much lower take-up rate, elderly who are eligible for assistance but not enrolled in the program do not appear to be especially needy.

Food Assistance Programs and Food Security