Who Receives Food Stamps During Adulthood? Analyzing Repeatable Events With Incomplete Event Histories
Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) from 1968 to 2005, we estimate the cumulative probability that young adults in the United States will receive food stamps during adulthood, and examine how that probability varies with an individual’s income and education at age 25 as well as by race and gender. We find that the probability of first food stamp receipt as an adult declines sharply with age, indicating that most adult recipients do so by age 40. Also, those receiving food stamps in early adulthood are likely to receive them again. For these reasons, and because food stamp receipt is a repeatable event, life table analyses that include individuals who are not observed until after they become exposed to the risk of food stamp receipt (whom we label “late entrants”) are likely to overstate cumulative participation during adulthood. For example, one often-cited study included individuals who enter their sample after age 20 (late entrants) and report that 50.8% of 20-year-olds are recipients by age 65. In contrast, when we exclude late entrants, we find that 39.2% of 20-year-olds and 29.7% of 25-year-olds receive benefits during adulthood.
KeywordsFood stamps Life tables Left-censoring PSID
This research was supported by Grant Agreement #43-3AEM-5-80056 from the Economic Research Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and by funds provided to the National Poverty Center by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (5U01 AE000002-03). Mary Corcoran, Peter Gottschalk, Robert Schoeni, Yu Xie, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on a previous version. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and not those of any sponsoring agency or organization.
- Cox, D. R. (1972). Regression models and life tables. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B, 34, 187–220.Google Scholar
- Cox, D. R., & Oakes, D. (1984). Analysis of survival data. London, UK: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
- Grieger, L. D., Danziger, S. H., & Schoeni, R. F. (2009). Accurately measuring the trend in poverty in the United States using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, 34, 105–117.Google Scholar
- Nord, M., & Hopwood, H. (2008). A comparison of household food security in Canada and the United States (Economic Research Report No. ERR-67). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
- Rank, M. R., & Hirschl, T. A. (1999). The likelihood of poverty across the American adult life span. Social Work, 44, 201–216.Google Scholar
- Ratner, D., & Danziger, S. H. (2008). Investigating food stamp participation in the PSID. Unpublished manuscript, National Poverty Center, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
- Russo, R., & Faux, M. (2003). Characteristics of food stamp households: Fiscal year 2002 (Report No. FSP-03-CHAR02). Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
- U.S. Census Bureau. (1999). Dynamics of economic well-being: Program participation, who gets assistance? (Current Population Reports P70-69). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.Google Scholar
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2010). Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from www.fns.usda.gov/pd/34snapmonthly.htm