Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4997-794X

Date of Award

8-11-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Charles Courtemanche

Second Advisor

James Marton

Third Advisor

Rusty Tchernis

Fourth Advisor

Craig Gundersen

Abstract

This dissertation consists of three chapters, each of which provides causal evidence on the impacts of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in a distinct, policy-relevant area.

The first chapter provides evidence of SNAP’s effects on the food retail industry. I combine data on SNAP participation, industry-specific retailer outcomes, and state SNAP expansions from 1998 to 2016. To address the endogeneity of SNAP participation, I employ a novel simulated eligibility instrumental variables framework exploiting variation in state SNAP eligibility expansions. I find that higher SNAP participation leads firms to operate more stores in industries where benefits are typically accepted, especially smaller general stores – a category dominated by dollar and discount stores.

The second chapter provides evidence of SNAP’s effects on Medicaid enrollment and spending. I combine state-level information on SNAP eligibility expansions, SNAP participation, and Medicaid enrollment and spending from 1999 to 2012. I summarize diverse SNAP eligibility expansions through a novel simulated eligibility measure. I find that SNAP expansions increase Medicaid enrollment and decrease Medicaid spending per enrollee, suggesting that SNAP participation lowers barriers to enrollment in Medicaid for groups who cost lower on average to cover.

The third chapter provides evidence of SNAP’s effects on mortality during its introduction in the “War on Poverty” era. SNAP was introduced as the Food Stamp Program (FSP) on a county-by-county basis from 1961 to 1975. I combine county-level information on the timing of FSP introduction with death counts from 1969 to 1978. I estimate the impacts of the FSP’s introduction on various mortality rates over time, including the overall mortality rate, population subgroup-specific rates, and cause-specific rates. I find that, among a subsample of high-poverty counties where the program’s introduction is likely to have a larger impact, the FSP reduced mortality over time. This effect was largely driven by reductions in the black, male, and age 0-19 mortality rates.

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