Measuring Effects of SNAP on Obesity at the Intensive Margin

Monday, June 13, 2016: 9:10 AM
419 (Fisher-Bennett Hall)

Author(s): Lorenzo Almada; Rusty Tchernis

Discussant: Chad Meyerhoefer

We examine quasi-experimental variation in SNAP amount on adult obesity. Children of SNAP households automatically qualify for in-school meals, thus freeing extra benefit for adults. A greater proportion of school-age children eligible for free in-school meals proxies for an exogenous increase in the amount of SNAP benefits available per adult. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979 we show that school meals represent a non-trivial part of the food budget for SNAP households. Increases in SNAP benefits have no effect on obesity levels for the full sample of those who report SNAP participation. To isolate the effects of SNAP from other potential changes when a child enters school our preferred specification examines adults living in households with at least one child under 5 years of age. In this setting we find that additional SNAP benefits reduce BMI and the probability of being obese for SNAP adults.