Call for Papers

To participate in the conference:

"Income Volatility and Implications for Food Assistance Programs II"

Jointly sponsored by the National Poverty Center, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan and the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Conference date: November 16-17, 2006

Paper abstract submission deadline: November 18, 2005
(Papers selected will be notified by December 16, 2005)

Click here to download a printable version of the RFP


The National Poverty Center (NPC), Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan and the Economic Research Service (ERS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will sponsor a research conference to be held in Washington, DC on November 16-17, 2006. The program, to be organized by Rebecca Blank and Sheldon Danziger on behalf of the NPC, and Dean Jolliffe and David Smallwood on behalf of ERS, will consist of eight to ten papers, with one discussant per paper. Selected conference papers are likely to appear in a conference volume or special issue of a journal.

The National Poverty Center will cover travel and local expenses for authors presenting papers, and anticipates providing an honorarium of $2,000 - $3,000.


The conference will help build the body of knowledge on a topic of great importance to USDA and ERS’s Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program (FANRP.) By including policymakers and analysts, the conference will foster informed dialogue on policy alternatives. Specifically, the conference is designed to:


A goal of means testing is to maximize the coverage of benefits to eligible recipients while minimizing the leakage of benefits to those not in the targeted group. As eligibility requirements become more precisely defined or strictly enforced, leakage is reduced but administrative costs and participant burden increase. For programs requiring a large amount of documentation, some eligible recipients may decide that the costs associated with benefit receipt are too high and decline to participate. Such tradeoffs are present in all means-tested transfer programs.

The focus of the conference is on income volatility and how it affects these tradeoffs for domestic food assistance programs. Specifically, we are interested in descriptive statistics and research on income volatility and the movement in and out of program eligibility, the decision to participate, compliance over time, and program costs. For example, what are the behavioral implications of income volatility for the level, frequency, and duration of transfer-program participation? How important is income volatility in determining program eligibility? What is the impact of fluctuating income on administrative and transaction costs of income-tested transfer programs?

Our primary interest is in U.S. food-assistance programs including Food Stamps, National School Lunch, and WIC programs. Papers dealing with other income transfer programs are also of potential interest, as are papers dealing with multiple-program interactions or methodological issues related to income and volatility measurement. In the end, though, the research should have implications for food assistance programs. We encourage papers that address relevant food stamp-related policy changes enacted in the most recent reauthorization of the Farm Bill, such as simplified reporting, longer certification periods, and changes in the definition of error rates. While preference will be given to papers that are empirical in focus, research with an applied theoretical emphasis is also welcome.

The conference will build on the success of a previous event, “Income Volatility and Implications for Food Assistance Programs,” which was co-sponsored in May 2002 by FANRP and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP.) The papers from that conference were published in a special issue of the Journal of Human Resources, volume 38, 2003. (Paper summaries are available in the Summer 2002 issue of the IRP’s research publication, Focus.)

Submission instructions

Applicants should provide five (5) copies of the following by Friday, November 18, 2005. This material should be sent to:

National Poverty Center

Attn: Income Volatility Conference

1. A cover sheet with the title of the paper, the investigator’s name and institutional affiliation, including mailing address, e-mail address, phone, and FAX numbers. If the paper involves more than one author, a principal author should be identified.

2. Curriculum vitae for all investigators.

3. An abstract of no more than 5 pages describing the specific aims, data, methods, and academic and policy significance of the research. If a draft of the paper is available, we are happy to receive it. (This need not be the final version of the paper that will be presented in November 2006, but if more work is anticipated before the November conference, the nature of that work should be clearly indicated in the paper.)

Please address any questions to Shawn Marie Pelak, NPC Program Manager, or (phone).