Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The diversity of state experiences with food stamp caseload dynamics

I will be in Los Angeles later this week, to give a paper on the Thrifty Food Plan research at one Saturday session of the annual meeting of the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM).

While there, I hope to see first hand some of the food retail hardships in the car-centered city, which have been getting a lot of coverage lately. See, for example, the report "Shopping for a Market" about new food retail entry (by researchers at Occidental), and the report "Designed for Disease" linking food retail to health conditions (by researchers at UCLA). Send any suggestions for places to visit or good food movement people to meet.

Meanwhile, I will be moderating another Saturday session, about how state-level differences in economic conditions and food stamp policies are related to differences in food security, hunger, and other outcomes. Nader Kabbani and I did a study a few years ago, investigating the importance of state-level variations in food stamp policies -- such as the length of the certification period for proving continued eligibility -- which turn out to be surprisingly influential in the Food Stamp Program, despite the program's reputation as a last bastion of national level rules in a sea of federalism.

Here is a fun illustration of the data from Nader's and my study. The basic static pattern in the opening picture is that states with higher unemployment tend to have higher food stamp participation. Hit play to see the dynamics of food stamp caseloads over the course of the 1990s, during a period just before (blue) and after (red) the adoption of welfare reforms. By clicking, you can select particular states to follow over time. Or, by selecting different variables from the triangle symbols, you can look at different variables, such as the certification periods discussed above.

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