hold SNAP participation and food insecurity and found that in the months immediately prior to entering the program, households experienced a steady increase in food insecurity. In particular, the prevalence of very low food security rose from 8 percent to 20 percent in the months before a household entered SNAP. This pattern suggests that these households were experiencing events that both led to food insecurity and prompted their decision to enter the program. In the months following their entry into SNAP, the households’ levels of food insecurity declined (with very low food security declining back to about 12 percent), evidence suggestive of beneficial effects of the program on this outcome (Nord and Golla, 2009).

In contrast to the findings of Nord and Golla (2009), several other studies examining whether SNAP participation improves food security while accounting for self-selection bias found that the benefits either had no effect or were associated with higher levels of food insecurity (Gibson-Davis and Foster, 2006; Gundersen and Oliveira, 2001; Jensen, 2002; Wilde and Nord, 2005). More recently, however, Bartfeld and Dunifon (2006) found lower food insecurity among near-poor and low-income populations in states with high SNAP participation rates compared with states with low participation rates, suggesting the possibility of beneficial program effects. Borjas (2004) and Van Hook and Balistreri (2006) examined food insecurity among immigrants whose program eligibility was affected by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act4 and found lower levels of food insecurity among immigrant households that remained eligible for SNAP compared with similar groups that lost their eligibility as a result of the legislated changes. Similarly, Nord and Prell (2011) found that food insecurity among the SNAP-eligible population fell after passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA),5 which increased SNAP benefit levels. The study found further that the amount spent on food by SNAP-eligible low-income households increased by 5.4 percent, and about 2.2 percent of that increase may be attributable to changes resulting from passage of the ARRA. SNAP-ineligible households with incomes just above the poverty threshold increased their food expenditures by a smaller percentage than low-income SNAP-eligible households, and the prevalence of food insecurity among the former households did not decline. There was no similar trend of increased food expenditures among those eligible for SNAP. Finally, two other studies using a statistical approach to account for both measured and unmeasured characteristics potentially related to entry into SNAP found that SNAP participation led


4Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Public Law 104-193, 104th Congress (August 22, 1966).

5American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Public Law 111-5, 111th Congress (February 17, 2009).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement