Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 508–520 | Cite as

Nutrigenomics Hypothesis: Examining the Association Between Food Stamp Program Participation and Bodyweight Among Low-Income Women

  • Zhuo ChenEmail author
  • Qi Zhang
Original Paper


This paper examines the association between food stamp program participation and bodyweight among 1,723 eligible women who were respondents of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Cohort. The study sample was stratified by race/ethnicity and two time periods, i.e., 1987–1996, 1998–2002, to allow for genetic and cultural differences and a potential structural break due to the 1996 welfare reform. We test a hypothesis based on the nutrigenomic literature suggesting that genetic heterogeneities result in varying effects of nutrition or food-borne components on metabolism. Differences in socioeconomic characteristics between participants and eligible non-participants were identified. We find a positive association between food stamp program participation and bodyweight among Hispanic women, particularly those of foreign-born.


Body mass index Food stamp program National longitudinal survey of youth Obesity 



This research was funded by a USDA/ERS Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) jointly with Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University. Dr. Zhang was also funded by National Institute of Child and Human Development (1R03HD056073). The paper has been benefited from discussions with Professors Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, Harold Pollack, PhD, and Willard Manning, PhD. The authors would like to thank an anonymous reviewer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Prof. Richard Caputo, Associate Editor, and Prof. Jing Jian Xiao, Editor, as well as referees of the journal for their useful comments. Editorial assistance from Ms. C. Kay Smith, MS, is greatly appreciated. The authors are responsible for any remaining errors. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


  1. Arab, L. (2004). Individualized nutritional recommendations: Do we have the measurements needed to assess risk and make dietary recommendations? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 63, 167–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baum, C. L. (2007). The effects of food stamps on obesity. Contractor and Cooperator Report No. 34. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Accessed 1 March 2010.
  3. Baum, C. L., & Ruhm, C. J. (2009). Age, socioeconomic status and obesity growth. Journal of Health Economics, 28, 635–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bishop, J. A., Formby, J. P., & Zeager, L. A. (2000). The effect of food stamp cashout on undernutrition. Economics Letters, 67, 75–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borjas, G. J. (2004). Food insecurity and public assistance. Journal of Public Economics, 88, 7–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2000). A comparison of the characteristics and spending patterns of food stamp recipients and nonrecipients. Issues in Labor Statistics, Summary 00-14. Accessed 1 March 2010.
  7. Cawley, J. (2004). The impact of obesity on wages. Journal of Human Resources, 39, 451–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chang, V. W., & Lauderdale, D. S. (2005). Income disparities in body mass index and obesity in the United States, 1971–2002. Archives of Internal Medicine, 165, 2122–2128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chaudhuri, A. (2009). Spillover impacts of a reproductive health program on elderly women in rural Bangladesh. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 30, 113–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen, Z., Yen, S. T., & Eastwood, D. B. (2005). Effects of food stamp participation on body weight and obesity. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 87, 1167–1173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chen, Z., Yen, S. T., & Eastwood, D. B. (2007). Does smoking have a causal effect on weight reduction? Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 28, 49–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cho, S. H., Lambert, D. M., Kim, H. J., & Kim, S. G. (2009). Overweight Korean adolescents and academic achievement. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 30, 126–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Currie, J. (2003). U.S. food and nutrition programs. In R. A. Moffitt (Ed.), Means-tested transfer programs in the United States (pp. 199–289). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Cutler, D. M., Claeser, E. L., & Shapiro, J. M. (2003). Why have Americans become more obese? Journal of Economic Perspective, 17, 93–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dopler Nelson, M., Prabakar, P., Kondragunta, V., Kornman, K. S., & Gardner, C. D. (2010, March) Genetic phenotypes predict weight loss success: The right diet does matter. Abstract #735. Presentation at the Joint Conference - 50th Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention—and—Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism—2010. San Francisco, California.Google Scholar
  16. Drewnowski, A., & Darmon, N. (2005). The economics of obesity: Dietary energy density and energy cost. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1S), 265S–273S.Google Scholar
  17. Forry, N. D. (2009). The impact of child care subsidies on low-income single parents: An examination of child care expenditures and family finances. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 30, 43–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fraker, T. M., Martini, A. P., Ohls, J. C., Ponza, M., & Quinn, E. A. (1992). Evaluation of the Alabama Food Stamp Cash-Out demonstration, Volume 1: Recipient impacts. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.Google Scholar
  19. Gibson, D. (2003). Food Stamp Program participation is positively related to obesity in low income women. Journal of Nutrition, 133, 2225–2231.Google Scholar
  20. Gibson, D. (2004). Long-term Food Stamp Program participation is differentially related to overweight in young girls and boys. Journal of Nutrition, 134, 372–379.Google Scholar
  21. Grafova, I. B. (2007). Your money or your life: Managing health, managing money. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 28, 285–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guthrie, J. F., Frazão, E., Andrews, M., & Smallwood, D. (2007). Improving food choices—Can Food Stamps do more? Amber Waves, 5(2), 22–28.Google Scholar
  23. Hsiao, C. (2007). Panel data analysis—advantages and challenges. Test, 16, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones, S. J., Jahns, L., Laraia, B. A., & Haughton, B. (2003). Lower risk of overweight in school-aged food insecure girls who participate in food assistance: Results from the panel study of income dynamics child development supplement. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 157, 780–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kaushal, N. (2007). Do food stamps cause obesity? Evidence from immigrant experience. Journal of Health Economics, 26, 968–991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kim, I.-K. (2004). Essays on economic determinants of weight outcomes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. City University of New York.Google Scholar
  27. Kuhn, B. A., Dunn, P. A., Smallwood, D. M., Hanson, K., Blaylock, J. R., & Vogel, S. (1996). Policy watch: The Food Stamp Program and welfare reform. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 10, 189–198.Google Scholar
  28. Macaluso, T. (1995). The extent of trafficking in the Food Stamp Program. Alexandria, VA, U.S: Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.Google Scholar
  29. Meyerhoefer, C. D., & Pylypchuk, Y. (2008). Does participation in the Food Stamp Program increase the prevalence of obesity and health care spending? American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 90, 287–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. National Institutes of Health. (1998). Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: The evidence report. Obesity Research, 6, 51S–209S.Google Scholar
  31. Nerlove, M. (2007). Comments on: Panel data analysis—advantages and challenges. Test, 16, 42–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Richards, T. J., & Patterson, P. M. (2006). Native American obesity: An economic model of the “Thrifty Gene” theory. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 88(3), 542–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sano, Y., Garasky, S., Greder, K. A., Cook, C. C., & Browder, D. E. (2010) Understanding food insecurity among Latino immigrant families in rural America. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Online First, doi: 10.1007/s10834-010-9219-y.
  34. Schmeiser, M. D. (2009). Expanding wallets and waistlines: The impact of family income on the BMI of women and men eligible for the earned income tax credit. Health Economics, 18(11), 1277–1294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shapiro, J. M. (2005). Is there a daily discount rate? Evidence from the food stamp nutrition cycle. Journal of Public Economics, 89, 303–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. StataCorp. (2005). Stata statistical software: Release 9. College Station TX: Stata Corporation.Google Scholar
  37. Townsend, M., Peerson, J., Love, B., Achterberg, C., & Murphy, S. (2001). Food insecurity is positively related to overweight in women. Journal of Nutrition, 131, 1738–1745.Google Scholar
  38. US Department of Agriculture. (2007). Food Stamp Program Participation and Costs. Accessed 16 Sep 2007.
  39. Ver Ploeg, M. (2009). Do benefits of U.S. food assistance programs for children spillover to older children in the same household? Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 30, 412–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ver Ploeg, M., Mancino, L., Lin, B. H., & Wang, C. Y. (2007). The vanishing weight gap: Trends in obesity among adult food stamp participants (US) (1976–2002). Economics and Human Biology, 5, 20–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wang, Y., & Zhang, Q. (2006). Are American children and adolescents of low socioeconomic status at increased risk of obesity? Changes in the association between overweight and family income between 1971 and 2002. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84, 707–716.Google Scholar
  42. Whitmore, D. (2002). What are Food Stamps worth? Working paper #468, Industrial Relations Section, Princeton University, July.Google Scholar
  43. Wilde, P. E. (2007). Measuring the effect of food stamps on food insecurity and hunger: Research and policy considerations. Journal of Nutrition, 137, 307–310.Google Scholar
  44. Wilde, P. E., & Andrews, M. S. (2000). The food stamp program in an era of welfare reform: Electronic benefits and changing sources of cash income. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 34, 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilde, P. E., & Ranney, C. K. (2000). The monthly food stamp cycle: Shopping frequency and food intake decisions in an endogenous switching regression framework. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 82, 200–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wolkwitz, K. (2007). Trends in Food Stamp Program participation rates 1999 to 2005. Washington DC: Mathematica Policy Research Inc.Google Scholar
  47. Zagorsky, J. L., & Smith, P. K. (2009). Does the U.S. food stamp program contribute to adult weight gain? Economics and Human Biology, 7(2), 246–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zeisel, S. H., Freake, H. C., Bauman, D. E., Bier, D. M., Burrin, D. G., German, J. B., et al. (2005). The nutritional phenotype in the age of metabolomics. Journal of Nutrition, 135, 1613–1616.Google Scholar
  49. Zhang, Q., & Wang, Y. (2004). Trends in the association between obesity, socioeconomic status in U.S. adults 1971 to 2000. Obesity Research, 12, 1622–1632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zhang, Q., & Wang, Y. (2007). Using concentration index to study changes in socio-economic inequality of overweight among US adolescents between 1971 and 2002. International Journal of Epidemiology, 36, 916–925.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centers for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.School of Community and Environmental HealthOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

Personalised recommendations