Research Paper

Inside the War on Poverty: The Impact of Food Stamps on Birth Outcomes
Douglas Almond, Hilary W. Hoynes (Affiliate in Economics) and Diane W. Schanzenbach

This project evaluates the health impacts of a signature initiative of the War on Poverty: the introduction of the modern Food Stamp Program (FSP). The literature is far from settled as to what casual impact (if any) the FSP has on nutrition and health. Research Affiliate Hilary Hoynes explores the impact of the FSP, one of the largest antipoverty programs in the United States (comparable in cost to the earned income tax credit and substantially larger than Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program) in an attempt to understand FSP effects. While valuable in its own right, this project also reveals much about the relationship between income and health.


Using variation in the month FSP began operating in each U.S. county, researchers find that pregnancies exposed to FSP three months prior to birth yielded deliveries with increased birth weight, with the largest gains at the lowest birth weights. Researchers also find small, but statistically insignificant improvements in neonatal mortality. They conclude that the sizable increase in income from FSP improved birth outcomes for both whites and African Americans, with larger impacts for African American mothers.