Effect of State Food Stamp and TANF Policies on Food Stamp Program Participation

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

The effectiveness of the Food Stamp Program (FSP) depends on the extent to which it reaches those who are entitled to benefits. In the mid- to late 1990s, participation fell sharply. In recent years, it rebounded somewhat, reaching 65.1 percent in 2005. Changes in participation patterns can be attributed partly to economic fluctuations, but they were also shaped by the rapidly changing State policy environment. This study combines data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, 1996-2003, with data on State-level food stamp, welfare, minimum wage, and Earned Income Tax Credit policy to investigate the effects of policy on food stamp participation. The findings show strong evidence that some FSP policy reforms made after 1999 (such as more lenient vehicle-exemption policies, longer recertification periods, and expanded categorical eligibility) increased food stamp participation. The use of biometric technology, such as fingerprinting, however, lowered participation. The study shows less consistent evidence that more lenient immigrant eligibility rules, simplified reporting, Electronic Benefit Transfers, or outreach spending raised food stamp participation.

Disclaimer: This study was conducted by The Urban Institute under research agreement number 43-3AEM-3-80085 with the Economic Research Service. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ERS or USDA.

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