Who Exits the Food Stamp Program After Welfare Reform?
Research Center: Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Investigator: Heflin, Colleen M.
Institution: University of Kentucky
Colleen M. Heflin
Martin School of Public Policy & Administration
University of Kentucky
429 Patterson Office Tower
Lexington, KY 40506-0027
This study explored factors associated with the termination of food stamp
benefits among women on welfare. Earlier studies suggest that women who
stop receiving cash welfare benefits are at risk of losing food stamp benefits
even though they remain eligible. There is also some evidence that women
with poor physical and mental health, those owning a car, and those with
poor knowledge of Food Stamp Program (FSP) rules are at increased risk of
leaving the FSP.
This study used data from 4 waves of the Women's Employment Survey
(WES). The WES is a random sample of 753 women on the welfare caseload
in February 1997 in an urban Michigan county. In-home structured
interviews were conducted between August and December 1997, between
August and December 1998, between November 1999 and March 2000, and
between September and December 2001. The response rate was 86.2 at
wave one; 92 percent at the second wave; 91 percent at the third wave; and
90 percent at wave four. The survey includes a variety of measures of
barriers to employment at each interview period, as well as monthly measures
of employment, food stamp receipt, and cash welfare receipt.
This study used Cox proportional hazard models in a competing risk framework
to examine factors associated with leaving the FSP and the cash
welfare program jointly, as well as factors associated with leaving the FSP
while continuing to receive cash welfare. Independent variables included
race, total number of children in the household, total number of adults in the
household, marital status, education level, percentage of years on welfare
since age 18, monthly welfare receipt, monthly employment, physical health
limitations, major depression, alcohol dependence, drug dependence, child
health problem, car ownership, possession of driver's license, and knowledge
of FSP eligibility rules.
The study estimates indicate that women who leave the FSP and cash
welfare program at the same time are likely to be employed. Evidence on
the role of physical and mental health problems in exiting the FSP is mixed.
Depression and alcohol dependence are not associated with leaving the FSP.
However, women who are drug dependent are more likely to leave the FSP
than those who are not. Additionally, having a child with a health problem
decreases the probability of exiting the FSP and cash welfare in the same
month. Having access to a car decreases the odds of leaving the FSP and
cash welfare in the same month, which suggests that the asset test may be
less of a barrier to FSP participation than the lack of transportation to attend
recertification appointments. Finally, results are consistent with qualitative
reports that some women who leave the FSP are unaware that they remain
eligible for program benefits.