Research on Food Security Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics
The University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service, began funding studies analyzing food security using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) in 2017. These projects focus on economic analyses of longitudinal household food insecurity and its links to food assistance program participation, work, income, consumption, health, and wealth.
All projects utilize the PSID. The USDA has sponsored the 18-item food security module in the 1999, 2001, 2003, 2015, and 2017 main family surveys, as well as the 1997 and 2014 Child Development Supplement (CDS).
The proposed study would use interviews from supplements of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) spanning nearly 20 years to examine the long-term consequences of food insecurity exposure in childhood and the impacts of SNAP participation as children on long-term health benefits. The findings from this study will provide evidence of the long‐lasting effects of food insecurity and the long‐term economic benefits of SNAP. Furthermore, this information will provide evidence about the effects of single and multiple episodes of food insecurity, the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity, the mechanisms behind a relationship between food insecurity and long‐term health, and the possible need for additional supports for the nutritional consumption of certain age groups.
The proposed study would investigate the extent to which lower educational attainment is a mechanism for the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity. A major path out of childhood disadvantage is the acquisition of human capital in young adulthood that allows for self-sufficiency in adulthood. Human capital investments may be difficult to access for young adults emerging from food-insecure homes, thus lower educational attainment may be one mechanism by which food insecurity is transmitted from one generation to the next. These findings will deepen the existing understanding of the mechanisms for intergenerational transmission of food insecurity, and in particular, the role of education as one possible mechanism. If pre-existing food insecurity is leading to less educational investment, this would have implications for both the importance of developing programs that improve child food security as well as those that maintain food access during years with potential educational investments.
Mental health problems occur disproportionately among those living in poverty – especially if they are food insecure – and frequently begin in early life, highlighting the need for early prevention. This project will use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to investigate the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity, the links between family food insecurity and the mental health of both parents and children, and the effect that food assistance programs may have in attenuating these links. An increased understanding of the association between food insecurity and offspring mental health, as well as the potentially protective role that SNAP may confer, will be an important contribution to the literature and guide policies regarding how best to utilize the SNAP program with a view towards halting the vicious cycle that exists between low socioeconomic attainment and mental ill health.
The proposed study will investigate the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity status across generations. From a human capital perspective, food insecurity is related to poor school performance and academic achievement, health disparities during the school years and later with poor socioeconomic functioning. Together, these factors result in poor adult outcomes, such as income and earnings. As a consequence, food insecurity status is likely to transmit across generations. Yet, little is known about the transmission of food insecurity as a measure of economic disadvantage. This study is motivated by why economically disadvantaged children are more likely than their peers to remain in disadvantage as adults. In light of the efforts of food assistance programs that have contributed to improving children’s nutrition and health, while reducing food insecurity in households with children, food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) may play a role in moderating food insecurity across generations.
The proposed study will investigate whether participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and/or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is protective against long-term food insecurity. Moreover, the authors will examine the role of nutritional knowledge in protecting against food insecurity and whether this knowledge mediates the relationship between SNAP/WIC and food insecurity. Results from this project will assist policy makers in deciding how to improve short- and long-term food security among low-income Americans.
Research on SNAP and Food Insecurity in the National Health Interview Survey
UKCPR, in cooperation with the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, launched the initiative Understanding the Relationships between SNAP, Food Security, and Health in the National Health Interview Survey in 2015. The focus of this initiative is to provide rigorous research that utilizes data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in order to expand our understanding of the effects of (1) the interaction between adult mental and physical health and household food insecurity, (2) SNAP on the health of both family caretaker and children, and (3) food insecurity on health and the possible mediating role of SNAP.
All projects utilize restricted-access versions of the NHIS and have accordingly been through an additional review process with the National Center for Health Statistics and/or the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.
While mental illness has been linked to household food insecurity, causal impacts are largely unknown. Focusing on SNAP eligible households, this project assesses causal effects of adult mental health conditions on food insecurity in households with and without children using data from the NHIS and recently developed partial identification methods. These methods formally account for the endogeneity and measurement issues in a unified framework that provides tight bounds on causal impacts of interest. The effect of mental health on food insecurity will be evaluated for SNAP eligible households along with important subpopulations. Additional subsample analyses—namely, by rural and metropolitan status and by the presence and age of children—will explore specific challenges faced by these subpopulations in attaining food security when a household member has a mental health condition.
This project will conduct an analysis of whether the impact of SNAP on health and healthcare utilization is greater for families in extreme poverty relative to other low-income families (e.g., between 25% and 100% of the poverty line or just above the line), and to determine whether SNAP mediates the effect of food insecurity on health and health care utilization more for the extreme poor relative to any mediating effects for higher income, but still low income, families. The study will use the NHIS-MEPS matched data sets for the cohorts 2011-2013, 2012-2014, and 2013-2015, where the first year of each is the NHIS year and the second two are the subsequent MEPS years. The authors will examine the effects of food insecurity, SNAP, their interaction, and its interaction with low income levels on many health and utilization out-comes. This research will explore whether targeting of SNAP outreach and other food-support effects may need to focus in special ways on families in extreme poverty.
Individuals with disabilities are more likely to live in households with food insecurity and experience adverse effects of food insecurity on health and nutrition. Their transition from childhood to adulthood is of particular interest to policymakers and researchers. As a result of this transition, young adults with disabilities are less likely than when they were younger to receive support from the Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid and may be faced with more restricted eligibility for SNAP. This study uses the restricted data from the 2011-2015 NHIS merged with the SNAP state policy database to examine the following questions: Compared to children with disabilities, are young adults with disabilities at greater risk of food insecurity? What health outcomes are associated with this increased risk of food insecurity over the course of transition? And does the SNAP participation play a greater role in protecting young adults with disabilities from food insecurity and negative health outcomes? To examine these questions, the authors will apply the difference-in-difference and instrumental variable approaches to a sample of low-income individuals ages 15-22 and their families.
This project will use the NHIS to examine the relationship between SNAP and the broader safety net on food insecurity, mental health, and the link between the two. The authors address three interrelated research questions: (1) Do mental health issues prevent take-up of SNAP and other benefits conditional on eligibility? (2) How do SNAP and the broader safety net affect mental health? and (3) How do SNAP and the broader safety net affect food insecurity in the presence of mental health issues? The proposed work will use a multi-program safety net calculator (including cash assistance, food assistance, and public health insurance programs) to examine the effects of safety net generosity on food insecurity, mental health, and the relationship between the two.
Using data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey linked to the 2012-13 Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, the authors evaluated the association between SNAP participation and healthcare expenditures. They found that people with food insecurity had an average of $1,863 more in annual health expenditures than those who were not food insecure, amounting to about $77.5 billion nationally in additional healthcare expenditure. Food insecurity was also associated with significantly greater emergency department visits, inpatient hospitalizations, and days hospitalized. Across several analytic approaches, researchers found that SNAP participation was associated with reduced subsequent healthcare expenditures.
The U.S. social safety net, including SNAP, exists to mitigate the deleterious effects of swings in family income, particularly among low- and moderate-income households. Learning the extent to which programs improve outcomes, such as food security, for low-income people is a challenge because households tend to receive food assistance when they are most food insecure. The authors of this project will use restricted-access NHIS data from the 1997 through 2014, along with data from the Current Population Survey and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, to examine changes in health and food security for adults and children between years in which the economy was performing poorly and years in which the economy was performing well. The “difference-in-differences” model will compare outcomes of low-versus-high income families over the business cycle, and whether participation in SNAP mitigates some of the negative health consequences of economic shocks to low-income families.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit levels are fixed across 48 states, but local food prices vary widely, leading to substantial variation in the value of benefits. Researchers examined the real value of SNAP benefits across markets to examine the effects on child health. Linking data on regional food prices and the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan to National Health Interview Survey data, the authors found that children in market regions with a lower real value of SNAP benefits utilize significantly less health care and may utilize emergency room care at increased rates. They also find significant increases in the number of school days missed due to illness for children facing higher food prices.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can have important effects for health and health care use. Researchers examined the impact of SNAP receipt and benefit level on the health of adults and children as they relate to state policy variation and SNAP benefit expansion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Using 2008-14 National Health Interview Survey data, researchers found that SNAP receipt is associated with improved health and reductions in missed medical care due to lack of money. Researchers also found that SNAP receipt may improve health and health care use for those close to the eligibility threshold, but ARRA’s relatively small increase and reduction in SNAP benefits may not have been substantial enough to change health outcomes.
SNAP Discussion Papers, by Year
The proposed study will investigate the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity status across generations. From a human capital perspective, food insecurity is related to poor school performance and academic achievement, health disparities during the school years and later with poor socioeconomic functioning. Together, these result in poorer adult outcomes, such as income and earnings. As a consequence, food insecurity status is likely to transmit across generations. Yet, little is known about the transmission of food insecurity as a measure of economic disadvantage. This study is motivated by why economically disadvantaged children are more likely than their peers to remain in disadvantage as adults. In light of the efforts of food assistance programs that have contributed to improving children’s nutrition and health, while reducing food insecurity in households with children, food assistance programs such as SNAP and the NSLP may play a role in moderating food insecurity across generations.