In this post on the University of Illinois Policy Matters blog, Craig Gundersen tries to lay to rest a few false beliefs (or misconceptions) that may people (and policy makers) have about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as "food stamps").
Does SNAP participation lead to obesity obesity? Gundersen writes:
Does SNAP participation cut down hunger? Gundersen writes:
If you've got a relatively decent income, it might be hard to imagine how SNAP could have such dramatic hunger and health effects, but it is important to keep in mind Engel's Law: the poor spend a larger proportion of their income on food than the rich. That phenomenon is alive and well in the US, and I can see it in my Food Demand Survey (FooDS) data, which measures food expenditures. Here's how estimated spending on food varies with household income, as measured by FooDS.
If you're on the right tail of the income distribution spending only about 5% of your income on food, then it is probably hard to imagine how food spending and eating will change when you're on the left tail of the distribution where food consumes almost 25% of the household's budget.
Finally, Gundersen takes on the idea that various health restrictions on SNAP spending will have much impact. He writes:
To that I'll add that most SNAP participants can easily get around the restrictions on what they buy by rearranging what they buy with SNAP and what they buy with non-SNAP dollars (see my explanation of that phenomenon here).
One might reasonably ask whether SNAP spending is too low or too high, and alternative variations on the program might be worth considering. Either way, decisions about SNAP's future should be ideally based our our best understanding of the program's impacts rather than false beliefs.