The Effect of SNAP Participation on Health
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Prior evaluations of the program have examined the contemporaneous benefits of SNAP participation on health. While findings on the effect of SNAP participation on contemporaneous obesity are mixed (Meyerhoefer & Pylypchuk, 2008; Schmeiser, 2012), others have shown that SNAP participation results in higher self-assessed health (Gregory & Deb, 2015). There has yet to be a study that has looked at these outcomes over time with strong identification for participation in the program.
The benefits associated with reduced food insecurity may only manifest months, or years, after receipt of the nutrition assistance benefits. The cumulative contribution of a moderate number of excess calories, for example, will result in weight gain, but only over time. As a consequence, cross sectional and short panel data sets used to evaluate SNAP are insufficient to identify the long-term effects of the program.
To test the hypothesis that participation in SNAP results in long-term health effects I use nearly two decades of data from the nationally representative PSID. The data include household SNAP participation and several health status variables for the head of household including self assessed health status, height and weight, and indicators for whether the respondent experienced limitations due to weight, heart problems, hypertension, or diabetes. I instrument for endogenous participation in SNAP using state-level variation in SNAP program policies, in combination with state and year fixed effects, to estimate the effect of SNAP participation on future health outcomes. Findings will shed light on possible additional benefits of the domestic hunger safety net.