Panel Paper: Results from an Evaluation of the ABAWD Work Requirement on SNAP Receipt and Employment

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Burnham (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Angela Rachidi, American Enterprise Institute

The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) implemented a work requirement on able-bodied adults without dependent children (ABAWD) in receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) benefits. For ABAWDs, benefits are time-limited to three months within a three year period, unless the person works at least 80 hours per month or participates in an education or work program for the same. The law allows a waiver of ABAWD work requirements during poor economic times, which States took advantage of during the most recent recession. Some States chose to reintroduce work requirements before they were required to do so by the law. This study exploits the reintroduction of the ABAWD work requirement in one Midwestern state to evaluate the effects on SNAP receipt and employment.

Using state administrative data on SNAP and UI wage reporting data, this study uses a difference-in-difference approach to compare changes in outcomes of SNAP receipt and employment from the quarters prior to the ABAWD requirement to at least 2 quarters after the ABAWD requirement was implemented. The state implemented the ABAWD requirement on a county-by-county basis and only at application and recertification for benefits. Although not random, this allows for comparison of changes in outcomes for those exposed to the ABAWD requirement to similar ABAWDs who were not exposed to the requirement. The difference-in-difference compares changes in SNAP receipt and employment from before the requirement to after for both the group exposed to the requirement and the comparison group not exposed to the requirement.

The results show statistically significant declines in SNAP receipt for those exposed to the requirement compared to those not exposed, even when controlling for observable factors. Employment effects were mostly positive, but mixed. Results are analyzed by subgroup, including those who participated in FSET programming and those who did not. The policy implications of the ABAWD requirement will be discussed.