Panel: Exploring Different Aspects of SNAP Using Survey and Administrative Data: Income, Employment, and Food Spending Patterns
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Saturday, November 4, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Burnham (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Angela Rachidi, American Enterprise Institute
Panel Chairs:  Swati Desai, Rockefeller Institute of Government
Discussants:  Diane Schanzenbach, Northwestern University

SNAP Benefits Go Beyond Food Access: A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of SNAP and Medication Nonadherence
Mithuna Srinivasan and Jennifer A. Pooler, IMPAQ International, LLC

SNAP Benefit Cycles, Food Store Proximity, and Food Spending
Mary Zaki, University of Maryland and Jessica E. Todd, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The purpose of this panel is to present research on how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) addresses three critical aspects of wellbeing: Income, Employment, and Food Spending Patterns. The overarching goal of SNAP is to improve the nutrition of low-income households, but how the program is designed and implemented has implications on much more than that. From an income perspective, food assistance can free up resources for other things that affect the health and wellbeing of recipients beyond nutrition and hunger. From an employment perspective, the effects of SNAP are ambiguous, with some aspects contributing to work while others discouraging work. And from a food spending perspective, the cycle of benefit administration and proximity of recipient households to low-cost food stores can influence how much is spent on food, which can affect other aspects of wellbeing.    

This panel explores these issues through research that uses a combination of both survey and administrative data. The first paper presents the results of a study using data from the National Health Interview Survey that compared cost-related medication adherence for SNAP participants versus a statistically-matched non-participant group. Although SNAP provides non-cash benefits for the purchase of food, the study finds that it also plays an important income support role by leading to better medication adherence for older people who participate in it. The second paper explores SNAP as an employment-support program by presenting the results of an evaluation of an ABAWD work requirement on SNAP receipt and employment for a Midwestern state that conducted a phased-in rollout of the requirement in 2014. Using a difference-in-difference approach, the study finds that the ABAWD work requirement reduced SNAP receipt and had employment effects for those exposed to the requirement. The third paper uses data from the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey to explore spending patterns among SNAP recipients and the relationship with proximity to their primary food store. The authors find that the closer the recipient household to their primary food store the “smoother” their spending. They also find that recipient households, on average, shop at a primary food store that is farther away than their nearest supermarkets and that the primary store offers lower-cost food. This suggests that efforts to offer SNAP benefits in shorter cycles (e.g., twice per month or weekly) might negatively affect those households that choose lower-cost, but farther away primary food stores.    

This panel fits well with this year’s conference theme by demonstrating that different, and varying data sources can prove critical to our understanding of the complexities and goals of large, federal safety net programs like SNAP. The papers reflect work using household survey data and administrative data from state agencies and covers three critical aspects of SNAP.

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