Electronic Publications from the Food Assistance & Nutrition Research Program No. (EFAN-03-011) 80 pp

November 2003

The Relationship of Earnings and Income to Food Stamp Participation: A Longitudinal Analysis

Monthly income and earnings of households that are eligible to participate in the Food Stamp Program (FSP), but that do not participate, vary substantially more than income and earnings of participant households. In particular, many nonparticipant households have had a short-term drop in income. Other nonparticipants, however, have had long-term low income and are often very disadvantaged. Although nonparticipation by such households might partly reflect underreporting of participation or income, many households may not participate because the same conditions that limit their incomes, such as low literacy levels or physical or mental disability, also limit their ability to participate in the FSP. Many poor nonparticipants are receiving other benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid, suggesting an avenue by which agencies can reach eligible nonparticipants. This study considers the role that the dynamics of household income plays in determining FSP participation. The two main objectives of the analysis are to (1) determine the extent to which nonparticipation can reasonably be attributed to temporary low income, and (2) assess why some households that appear to have long-term low income do not participate.

Keywords: food stamp program, FSP, Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, FANRP, low-income households, food assistance, program outcomes, earnings

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