Access to Food Stamps Improves Children’s Health and Reduces Medical Spending

Source: Chloe N. East, Center for Poverty Research – University of California, Policy Brief, Vol. 7 no. 4, November 2018

The Food Stamp Program (FSP, known since 2008 as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) is one of the largest safety-net programs in the United States. It is especially important for families with children. However, the FSP eligibility of documented immigrants has shifted on multiple occasions in recent decades. When I studied the health outcomes of children in documented immigrant families affected by such shifts between 1996 and 2003, I found that just one extra year of parental eligibility before age 5 improves health outcomes at ages 6-16. This suggests that expanding food-stamp access for such families has lasting long-run benefits for their children and may help to reduce public medical expenditures in the medium term.

Key Facts:
– Immigrants’ loss of eligibility reduced participation in the Food Stamp Program among U.S.-born children of immigrants by 50%, and reduced the average benefits they received by 36%.
– Loss of parental food-stamp eligibility before age five has clear negative effects on developmental health outcomes and on parental reports of the child’s health in the medium-run.
– An additional year of food-stamp access in early life reduces medical expenditures in the medium-run by roughly $140 per child.