Food Assistance Program Participation and Use: The Roles of Electronic Benefit Transfer

Grants and Contracts Details


SNAP EBT and WIC EBT began in Pennsylvania in 1984 and Michigan in 2008 respectively. By 2004 and 2022, all U.S. states have adopted the EBT system for SNAP and WIC, respectively, with varying dates of implementation. Compared with a voucher, EBT card has several advantages appealing to eligible non-participants: receiving benefits faster at a lower cost, less likely to lose benefits, multiple government program benefits (e.g., SNAP and TANF) on one card, reducing the stigma effect, and less benefit trafficking. Therefore, we expect the adoption of the EBT system to foster participation, and help SNAP recipients spend more on food out of benefits. Only a few studies have examined the economics of EBT adoption, instead focusing on analyzing the impact of SNAP EBT on food security in California (Lovett and Xue, 2017), examining the rollout of WIC EBT in Texas on vendor fraud (Meckel, 2015), and examining how WIC EBT rollout in Ohio affected WIC redemptions and non-WIC food expenditures using Ohio household scanner data (Hanks et al, Food Policy, 2020, reported redemptions of WIC benefits increased). This proposed project has two integrated objectives with hypotheses derived from economic theory: Objective 1: Examine the impacts of EBT introduction on SNAP and WIC participation rates, on SNAP participants’ food spending out of benefits, and on the sales of WIC eligible products. We hypothesize that the EBT introduction increased: participation (H1), participants’ food spending out of SNAP benefits (H2), and sales of WIC eligible products (H3). Objective 2: Examine the impact of grocery taxes on SNAP and WIC participation rates. As the program benefits cannot be taxed, we hypothesize that grocery taxes add another incentive to participate (H4) due to the tax shielding effect. We aim to compare the effects of EBT introduction on SNAP and WIC participation rates in counties with and without grocery taxes.
Effective start/end date9/1/239/30/25


  • Economic Research Service: $30,000.00


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