Panel Paper: The Antipoverty Effect of Nutrition Assistance Programs, 2007-2009

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 3:20 PM
Salon E (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Laura Wheaton, Urban Institute and Linda Giannarelli, The Urban Institute

This paper presents the results of an analysis showing the extent to which nutrition programs reduced poverty before, during, and after the 2007-2009 recession.  Poverty is measured following the current recommendations for the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) from the Census Bureau.  The SPM includes all key family resources, including near-cash income from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program.  The SPM also uses updated thresholds to define poverty using a needs measure consistent with the resource measure, with variation in the thresholds by housing tenure and geography.

We use the Current Population Survey (CPS) to estimate the SPM for calendar years 2007 through 2009, representing a pre-recession year, a full recession year, and the year when the recession ended.  Detailed simulations correct nutrition assistance and other benefits on the CPS to represent program totals and add other information required for the SPM.  Family income is computed with and without nutrition assistance to show how these benefits affect poverty rates, the poverty gap and the distribution of poverty when considered separately and together.  The results capture changing program participation across the time period.  A final analysis examines the programs’ potential for further poverty reduction by simulating full participation and adoption of other program rules that would expand eligibility.