NPC Working Paper #04-14

November 2004

Narrowing the Food Insecurity Gap Between Food Stamp Participants and Eligible Non-Participants: The Role of State Policies.

Craig Gundersen, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University. Dean Jolliffe, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Laura Tiehen, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

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The effectiveness of a welfare program is often measured by comparing the material well-being of participants to that of non-participants.   A common measure of the Food Stamp Program's effectiveness is the difference in food insecurity rates between participants and eligible non-participants.   Reductions in this difference are typically assumed to indicate that the food security status of food stamp participants has improved, but it is also possibly indicative of decreased participation by households most at risk of food insecurity. We use variation in state policies and data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to analyze the latter explanation.   Controlling for other factors, we find that States with policies which discourage participation by at risk households have lower differences in the food insecurity rates of participants and non-participants.