Research

2014

This project examines why very low food security status among children is different across households with very similar measured resources. Controlling for measures of income-to-needs, we examine whether elements in  the environment, household characteristics,  or  behaviors  are  systematically  correlated  with  VLFS  among children.

Concern about spatial access to food retailers and food assistance resources has increased in recent years, placing greater importance on understanding how connections to the local food resource infrastructure shapes food security. This is especially true during the Great Recession era, during which time a greater incidence of economic shocks has contributed to rising food insecurity and rising food assistance caseloads.

In this report we provide an overview of the extent and distribution of food insecurity in 2012 among seniors, along with trends over the past decade using national and state-level data from the December Supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS). Based on the full set of 18 questions in the Core Food Security Module (CFSM), the module used by the USDA to establish the official food insecurity rates of households in the United States, our emphasis here is on quantifying the senior population facing the threat of hunger (i.e. marginally food insecure).

Theory suggests that adverse life events—such as unemployment or health shocks—can result in food insecurity, which has increased substantially in the U.S. over the past decade alongside the obesity epidemic. We test this proposition by estimating the effects of a specific and salient mental health event—maternal depression during the postpartum year—on child and family food insecurity.

The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) serves as the data source for official income, poverty, and inequality statistics in the United States. There is a concern that the rise in nonresponse to earnings questions could deteriorate data quality and distort estimates of these important metrics. We use a dataset of internal ASEC records matched to Social Security Detailed Earnings Records (DER) to study the impact of earnings nonresponse on estimates of poverty from 1997-2008.

We examine characteristics and correlates of households in the United States that are most likely to have children at risk of inadequate nutrition – those that report very low food security (VLFS) among their children. Using 11 years of the Current Population Survey, plus data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and American Time Use Survey, we describe these households in great detail with the goal of trying to understand how these households differ from households without such severe food insecurity.

Receipt of benefits from other traditional transfer programs by SNAP families is common, with 76 percent of those families receiving at least one other major benefit of that type, excluding Medicaid, in 2008. However, over half of these only received one other benefit and only a very small fraction received more than two others. Over the long-term, multiple benefit receipt among SNAP families has been falling, a result of declines in the TANF caseload offsetting rises in the SSI, SSDI, and WIC caseloads.

Food insecure seniors have lower nutrient intakes. For each of the eleven nutrients, average intakes are statistically significantly lower generally by 10-20 percent for food insecure seniors in comparison to food secure seniors. After controlling for other confounding factors, the effect of food insecurity is still negative for each of the nutrients albeit in some of the cases, the effect is statistically insignificant. These differences in health outcomes held across time.

Much of the evidence about the effects of SNAP on nutrition is based on cross-sectional studies comparing SNAP recipients and eligible non-recipients, and thus potentially biased, even when observables are controlled. There is evidence suggesting SNAP recipients spend more on food than other similar families and that they have higher nutrient availability than others.

This study examined whether food insecurity was different for children in cohabiting or repartnered families compared to those in single mother or married (biological) parent families. We compared probabilities of child food insecurity across different family structures in four national datasets the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort ECLS-B); the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (FFWCS); the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K); and, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics-Child Development Supplement (PSID-CDS).