Long Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net

49 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2012 Last revised: 25 Aug 2021

See all articles by Hilary Williamson Hoynes

Hilary Williamson Hoynes

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Northwestern University - School of Education and Social Policy; NBER

Douglas Almond

Columbia University - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 2012

Abstract

A growing economics literature establishes a causal link between in utero shocks and health and human capital in adulthood. Most studies rely on extreme negative shocks such as famine and pandemics. We are the first to examine the impact of a positive and policy-driven change in economic resources available in utero and during childhood. In particular, we focus on the introduction of a key element of the U.S. safety net, the Food Stamp Program, which was rolled out across counties in the U.S. between 1961 and 1975. We use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to assemble unique data linking family background and county of residence in early childhood to adult health and economic outcomes. The identification comes from variation across counties and over birth cohorts in exposure to the food stamp program. Our findings indicate that the food stamp program has effects decades after initial exposure. Specifically, access to food stamps in childhood leads to a significant reduction in the incidence of "metabolic syndrome" (obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes) and, for women, an increase in economic self-sufficiency. Overall, our results suggest substantial internal and external benefits of the safety net that have not previously been quantified.

Suggested Citation

Hoynes, Hilary Williamson and Schanzenbach, Diane Whitmore and Almond, Douglas Vincent, Long Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net (November 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2178314

Hilary Williamson Hoynes (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

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Berkeley, CA 94720
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Northwestern University - School of Education and Social Policy ( email )

Evanston, IL
United States

NBER ( email )

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Douglas Vincent Almond

Columbia University - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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