Expert Commentary

Do in-kind transfers affect health? Evidence from the Food Stamp program

2009 study by the Harris School of Public Policy on the effects of participation in the Food Stamp program on recipients' health

About one-third of elderly participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, were diabetic in 2006.  Despite the high and growing prevalence of diabetics among Food Stamp recipients, there is a lack of information on the effects of such in-kind transfers on recipients’ health.

A 2009 paper by the Harris School of Public Policy, “Do In-Kind Transfers Affect Health? Evidence from the Food Stamp Program,” seeks to fill this gap. The study’s key findings include:

  • Overall, there is no significant evidence that Food Stamps influences the health outcomes of the elderly recipients.
  • Among recipients who are diabetics, they are 7% more likely to experience an inpatient hospitalization.
  • Among non-whites, Food Stamp receipt is associated with a 3% decrease in end-stage renal disease but an 8% increase in hospitalization risk.

The study’s main policy implication is the need for coordination between the Food Stamp Program, Medicare and Medicaid in healthcare provisions for diabetics. In addition, the paper also raises concerns on the current design and sufficiency of Food Stamp budget for diabetics to receive adequate nutrition to manage their medical conditions.

Tags: nutrition, poverty

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