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Explaining Participation Rates in the Food Stamp Program

By Adam B. Banks and Advisor Thomas Macurdy


The Food Stamp Program is a central feature of the U.S. social safety net, providing more than $16 billion in benefits to 17 million people in 2001. Despite the large number of families receiving monthly benefits, as many as fifty percent of eligible families do not participate in this program. This study addresses one of the main rationales offered for nonparticipation, namely that the benefits are too low to make participation worth the costs for some families. This study uses a probit regression model to evaluate the relationship between available benefits and the probability that an eligible household will participate. The regression model’s findings suggest that while available benefit levels are positively correlated with participation probabilities, the relationship is not as strong or as significant as we might expect. An increase of $100 in monthly benefits increases the probability that an eligible household will participate in the program by only 1.8 percent. Furthermore, the study reveals that eligible non-participants forgo a

Year: 2003
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