A Comprehensive Evaluation of the Impact of SNAP on the Health of Seniors

Grants and Contracts Details


While a sizeable literature has examined the impacts of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation on food security and related health outcomes, we are unaware of any papers that specifically focus on the program’s causal effects on seniors. We propose a series of studies that will fill this void in the literature. First, we will use data from the December Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement to examine the effect of SNAP on household food insecurity and food expenditures, comparing estimates for the full sample to those for a restricted sample of respondents ages 60 and older. Next, using restricted-access data from the National Health Interview Surveys, we will explore how SNAP influences seniors’ self-assessed health along a wide range of dimensions, including physical and mental health, functional limitations, body mass index, and risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking. Finally, we will use restricted-access panel data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine SNAP’s effects on food security, self-assessed health, and limitations with activities of daily living in a dynamic panel framework. In all these studies, we will address the issue of endogeneity from the non-random nature of SNAP participation using a novel instrumental variables strategy that exploits cross-state, over-time variation in a number of state policies related to SNAP eligibility. We will also address the well-known phenomenon of measurement error in survey-based SNAP participation measures by implementing a recently developed two-step estimator that jointly models both true SNAP participation status and the probability of misreporting. Together, our results will provide a comprehensive view of the causal effect of SNAP on seniors’ health.
Effective start/end date3/27/1912/31/21


  • US Department of Agriculture


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