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ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #238901

Title: Supplemental nutrition assistance program participation and health: Evidence from low-income individuals in Tennessee

item YEN, STEVEN - University Of Tennessee
item BRUCE, DONALD - University Of Tennessee
item Jahns, Lisa

Submitted to: Contemporary Economic Policy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/9/2010
Publication Date: 1/5/2012
Citation: Yen, S.T., Bruce, D.J., Jahns, L.A. 2012. Supplemental nutrition assistance program participation and health: Evidence from low-income individuals in Tennessee. Contemporary Economic Policy. 30(1):1-12.

Interpretive Summary: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, is designed to provide food assistance via benefit payments to households meeting criteria based upon income cut-points. The largest component of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutrition program, the SNAP had a budget of $34.8 billion for FY 2007, comprising 63.9 percent of the Department’s food assistance budget. With so much of the nation’s food assistance resources distributed by SNAP, it is important that policy makers have improved analytical tools for evaluating program participation and for estimating the impacts of SNAP participation on the nutrition and health status of program participants. In this study, we investigate the effect of participation in SNAP on an important outcome variable: self-assessed health (SAH) status, a widely used indicator of health-related quality of life. SNAP participation can impact health outcomes in several ways. First, to the extent that SNAP benefits represent effective income increases, the additional purchasing power can allow individuals to consume more or better health care. At the same time, those in better health (status) are likely able to earn higher incomes, and therefore less likely to participate in SNAP. There is abundant empirical evidence, in social and other sciences, of the association between income and health, although the direction (causality) of association is less clear. This information will be useful to policymakers and to public health professionals who seek to improve both SNAP utilization and health of low income populations.

Technical Abstract: We investigate the factors that contribute to participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the effects of such participation on self-assessed health (SAH). An endogenous switching ordered probability model is developed with alternative error distributional assumptions, using the copula approach, which circumvents the statistical inconsistency problem when the conventional (Gaussian) distributional assumption is violated. Results are found to be robust across model specifications. Socio-demographic characteristics are found to play a role in SNAP participation. Participation in SNAP inversely related to SAH. While this result does not indicate a health-improving effect of SNAP, it indicates that SNAP is reaching its target population in Tennessee.