Panel Paper: The Effect of Immigrants' SNAP Eligibility on Adult Health

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Toronto (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Chloe N. East and Andrew Friedson, University of Colorado, Denver

The Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the key safety net programs today. However, evidence on the effect of SNAP on participants’ outcomes remains limited. This is partly due to the fact that SNAP is a federal program, so its benefit amounts and eligibility rules vary little across geographic areas or time, making it hard to conduct quasi-experimental research on the effects of the program. In this project, I take advantage of policy changes affecting documented immigrants’ SNAP eligibility to provide the first quasi-experimental evidence of the effect of SNAP on adult health insurance coverage and overall health. Using the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the CPS, I find that single foreign-born women switch from private to public health insurance when they gain access to SNAP, consistent with previous findings that SNAP access reduces the likelihood of work among this group. However, there are no effects on single women's self-reported health. For married foreign-born couples, for which the extensive margin labor supply response is minimal, there is no evidence of changes in insurance coverage, but self-reported health improves with SNAP access for both spouses.