When Does it Count? The Timing of Food Stamp Receipt and Educational Performance
31 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 25, 2017
The impact of poor nutrition has been established as an important determinant of learning and achievement among school aged children. It has also been demonstrated that the single monthly treatment of food stamps leaves meaningful nutritional deficiencies in recipient households during the final weeks of the benefits cycle. This paper exploits detailed administrative data on standardized math tests scores and randomized food stamp receipt dates to allow us to measure the impact of these low nutritional periods on student performance. Our main results are that scores are notably lower when the exam falls near the end of the benefit cycle and when food stamps arrive on the four days immediately preceding the exam. While both boys and girls experienced a similar penalty with receipt near the end of the cycle, the effect from receipt just prior to the exam appears to be partially explained by a large negative effect associated with weekend receipt, which coincides with the four days prior to the exam, that is concentrated among African-American boys. Our results provide evidence that households do not sufficiently smooth consumption and that this has measurable effects on student performance. The fact that weekend receipt differs suggests a behavioral response from households beyond food insecurity that also has meaningful effects.
Keywords: SNAP Benefits, Educational Outcomes, Consumption Cycles
JEL Classification: I21, I31, I38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation