Public Transfer Payment Timing and Traffic Fatalities
Traffic Deaths are viewed as a public health concern by both the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. In 2015, 35,092 individuals died in traffic accidents in the United States, including 5,376 pedestrian casualties of these accidents. There are many factors that influence the rate of death including traffic congestion, speeding, alcohol consumption, and occupant and non-occupant safety choices such as car seats and helmets. Income timing may affect these factors in myriad ways.
We examine whether Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) benefits affect traffic fatalities. Our difference-in-difference estimates suggest that during the first four days following TANF benefit receipt, across the United States, pedestrian fatalities increase by 41 deaths per year, an increase of 0.8 percent and that there are 118 more deaths due to fatal crashes, an increase of 0.3 percent. When we examine the separate effects of TANF and SNAP payment timing, we find that TANF payment timing increases traffic fatalities while SNAP payment timing has the opposite effect, which is consistent with the finding of Castellari et al. (2016) for alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
Our findings contribute to the literature in two important ways. First, we show that part of the increase in mortality due to income payment timing is due to a rise in traffic fatalities due to TANF payment timing. Additionally, we show that pedestrian fatalities are an important piece of this explanation. This is not surprising since TANF recipients may be more likely to walk than non-recipients (NHTSA 2017). Second, our findings suggest that the effects are different for TANF receipt (a cash benefit) versus SNAP receipt (an in-kind benefit) providing empirical support for the argument that individuals respond differently to cash versus in-kind benefits.