The University of Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) is the longest continuously running longitudinal survey in the world. It began in 1968 as a survey of 4,802 American families and has followed the same parents, along with their children and grandchildren as they split off to form their own households, so that today there are more than 11,000 PSID families and 25,000 individuals. The topics in the survey span work, welfare, family structure, income, consumption, health, and wealth, making the PSID ideally suited for the study of household behaviors over time and across generations. The USDA sponsored the 18-item Household Food Security Module on the 1999, 2001, and 2003 survey years, along with the 1997 Child Development Supplement. Recently the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provided funding to include the food security module on the 2014 PSID Child Development Supplement (CDS) survey and on the 2015, 2017, and 2019 core PSID surveys. This offers the first opportunity to answer key pressing scientific and policy issues such as the persistence of food insecurity within and across generations, and how changes in food security affect and are affected by the level and change in consumption, wealth, and broader measures of health. 

To launch this new research agenda on food insecurity using the PSID, UKCPR partnered with the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) and FNS with a competitively awarded grants program in 2017. The projects are scheduled for completion at the end of 2018. The list of grantees and abstracts of their proposed researd is provided below.




Childhood and adolescent food security and young adult outcomes

Exposure to stressful life experiences during childhood, such as food insecurity, can have negative consequences for attainment later in life. The developmental timing of stressful events and how they influence outcomes over the life course is a critical area of research. Indeed, a more comprehensive understanding of the latter life consequences of childhood food insecurity could guide policy-makers in designing more effective social policies to reduce the severity of the poor life outcomes. This project uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to estimate the young adult impacts (as late as age 25) of food insecurity experienced in discrete childhood stages – middle childhood (ages 5-10), early adolescence (ages 11-14), and middle adolescence (ages 15-18). It aims to identify which childhood stage-specific effects of food insecurity are most important to five young adult outcomes in two main areas – risky sexual behaviors and criminal justice involvement. Results provide consistent evidence that the mean food security scores in middle childhood are associated with the criminal justice involvement outcome. The results are less consistent with the sexual risk taking outcomes. Middle childhood food insecurity is associated with the number of sexual partners in young adulthood, while early adolescent food insecurity is associated with the number of children in young adulthood. Results indicate that male respondents appear to be more sensitive to food insecurity than females.

The influence of nutrition assistance program participation, parental nutritional knowledge, and family foodways on food security and child well-being

In this report we present results from our study of the effect of SNAP and WIC participation during childhood on food insecurity risk in young adulthood. We also examined the effect of parental nutritional knowledge and childhood food involvement on food insecurity in young adulthood. We used data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Original Childhood Development Supplement. Our balanced panel (n=1,305) was comprised of individuals who were 0-12 years old in 1997, had data on SNAP and income from their year of birth through 2015, food insecurity data in 2015/2017, and had moved out of their parents’ home and started their own household prior to 2015. We estimated logistic models using sample, cluster and strata weights to generate nationally representative results. We find a small, but non-statistically significant effect of SNAP and WIC participation during childhood on odds of being food insecure during young adulthood. When examining change in food security from 1999-2015, we find that participation in SNAP during ages 0-5 years (OR 2.36, 95% CI: 0.99, 5.61), and during ages 12-18 years (OR 2.68, 95% CI: 1.09, 6.57) is associated with a higher odds of being more secure in 2015 than in 1999 compared to low income children who were eligible for, but did not participate in SNAP. Participation in both SNAP and WIC during ages 0-5 predicts higher odds (OR: 4.47, 95% CI: 2.04, 9.78) of being more secure in young adulthood than in childhood compared to low income children who were eligible for, but did not participate in SNAP or WIC.  Finally, we saw a statistically significant protective effect of high parental nutritional knowledge (in 1999) and child time spent preparing food (during ages 5-12) on food insecurity risk in 2015-2017. SNAP and WIC, as well as parental nutritional knowledge and childhood food involvement appear to have some protective effect on food insecurity in young adulthood. Future research should further investigate the effects of nutrition education, nutrition assistance program participation, and involvement in food preparation on food insecurity over the short- and long-term.


Food security and poverty status across generations

The persistence of disadvantage across generations is a central concern for social policy in the United States. While an extensive literature has focused on economic mobility for income, much less is known about the mechanisms for mobility out of poverty or material hardship. This study provides the first estimates of the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity and poverty status from childhood into early adulthood. An advantage of studying the transmission of food insecurity is that it provides a direct measure of well-being compared to income-based poverty measures. In this study, we use panels of childhood and adult food security measures in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics over the survey years 1997 (using the Child Development Supplement) through early release data for 2017. Childhood food insecurity is associated with about 20 percentage points higher probability of food insecurity as an adult (or 10 percentage points conditional on income and wealth). The estimated transmission of food insecurity is robust to using different measures of food security as well as to applying instrumental variable methods for panel data that account for an individual’s fixed ability endowment. This study establishes an important benchmark for measuring persistence in long-term family well-being and labor market outcomes.

The long-term health consequences of childhood food insecurity

This study examined the long-term consequences of frequency, timing, and severity of food insecurity exposure in childhood on health and health care utilization in adulthood using nearly 20 years of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.  The findings provide evidence of the long-lasting health effects of childhood food insecurity.  Young adults who experienced food insecurity as children have higher psychological distress, even when adjusting for childhood socioeconomic status, parent’s health, health during childhood, and food insecurity during adulthood.  More severe and more frequent episodes of childhood food insecurity are related to worse psychological distress during adulthood, but even marginal food security and single episodes of food insecurity appear to be related to worse psychological distress during adulthood.  Very low food security during childhood also appears to be related to worse physical health during adulthood.  Using instrumental variables to adjust for selection into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), this study also finds some evidence that receipt of SNAP during childhood appears to reduce the effects of childhood food insecurity on health during adulthood.

The intergenerational transmission of food security: A nonparametric bounds analysis

Using partial identification methods and data from the PSID, we analyze the causal transmission of food security across generations.  Food security rates are positively correlated across generations; food security rates in 2015 are 20 points higher for respondents who grew up in households that were secure in 1999 than those growing up in food insecure households. Despite these strong associations, the intergenerational effect of growing up in a food secure household remains uncertain. . Assessing the degree of intergenerational transmission of food security is complicated by unobserved factors (e.g., human capital, health issues) that jointly influence whether a child resides in a food secure household and, subsequently, whether likely to be food secure as a young adult.  Identifying causal transmission across generations requires addressing this important selection problem.  In light of the ambiguities created by the selection problem, a number of alternative assumptions and estimates are presented. While under the weakest assumptions very little can be inferred, results derived under strong but plausible assumptions provide evidence that growing up in a food insecure household increases the probability of being food secure as a young adult.

Does early food insecurity impede the educational access needed to become food secure?

This paper examines the role of educaitonal investment as a mechanism for the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity. Specifically, we examine how food insecurity during childhood may reduce post-secondary educational infestments, which, in turn, may increase food insecurity during adulthood. Recent work on families and teenagers suggests that teenage employment may contribute to increased food security of children in a household. Teenagers who choose work over educational engagement during high school may not be poised to make the educational ivnestments needed to achieve food security as adults.