UKCPR announces grantees for research on food security using the PSID

The University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service, is funding five studies in 2017-18 to analyze food security using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). These projects focus on economic analyses of longitudinal household food insecurity and its links to food assistance program participation, work, income, consumption, health, and wealth.

All projects utilize PSID data. The USDA has sponsored the 18-item food security module in the 1999, 2001, 2003, 2015, and 2017 main family surveys, as well as the 1997 and 2014 Child Development Supplement.

Our funded projects include the following:

The long-term Health consequences of childhood food insecurity -- Angela R. Fertig, Medica Research Institute

The proposed study will use interviews from supplements of the PSID spanning nearly 20 years to examine the long-term consequences of food insecurity exposure in childhood and the impacts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation as children on long-term health benefits. The findings from this study will provide evidence of the long‐lasting effects of food insecurity and the long‐term economic benefits of SNAP. Furthermore, this information will provide evidence about the effects of single and multiple episodes of food insecurity, the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity, the mechanisms behind a relationship between food insecurity and long‐term health, and the possible need for additional supports for the nutritional consumption of certain age groups.

Does early food insecurity impede the educational access needed to become food secure? -- Sarah Hamersma, Syracuse University, and Matthew Kim, University of St Thomas

The researchers will investigate the extent to which lower educational attainment is a mechanism for the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity.  A major path out of childhood disadvantage is the acquisition of human capital in young adulthood that allows for self-sufficiency in adulthood.  Human capital investments may be difficult to access for young adults emerging from food-insecure homes, thus lower educational attainment may be one mechanism by which food insecurity is transmitted from one generation to the next.  These findings will deepen the existing understanding of the mechanisms for intergenerational transmission of food insecurity, and in particular, the role of education as one possible mechanism. If pre-existing food insecurity is leading to less educational investment, this would have implications for both the importance of developing programs that improve child food security as well as those that maintain food access during years with potential educational investments.

Food insecurity and mental health in families with children: Can access to SNAP break the vicious cycle? -- Pamela Surkan, Johns Hopkins University, Laura Pryor, INSERM & Sorbonne Universities, Mauricio Avendano, King’s College London, Maria Melchior, INSERM & Sorbonne Universities

Mental health problems occur disproportionately among those living in poverty – especially if they are food insecure – and frequently begin in early life, highlighting the need for early prevention. This project will use the PSID to investigate the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity, the links between family food insecurity and the mental health of both parents and children, and the effect that food assistance programs may have in attenuating these links.  An increased understanding of the association between food insecurity and offspring mental health, as well as the potentially protective role that SNAP may confer, will be an important contribution to the literature and guide policies regarding how best to utilize the SNAP program with a view towards halting the vicious cycle that exists between low socioeconomic attainment and mental ill health.

Intergenerational transmission of food insecurity and the role of food assistance programs in moderating the transmission of food insecurity across generations -- Christopher Wimer and Jaehyun Nam, Columbia University

The proposed study will investigate the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity status across generations. From a human capital perspective, food insecurity is related to poor school performance and academic achievement, health disparities during the school years and later with poor socioeconomic functioning. Together, these factors result in poor adult outcomes, such as income and earnings. As a consequence, food insecurity status is likely to transmit across generations. Yet, little is known about the transmission of food insecurity as a measure of economic disadvantage. This study is motivated by why economically disadvantaged children are more likely than their peers to remain in disadvantage as adults. In light of the efforts of food assistance programs that have contributed to improving children’s nutrition and health, while reducing food insecurity in households with children, food assistance programs such as SNAP and the National School Lunch Program may play a role in moderating food insecurity across generations. 

The influence of nutrition assistance program participation, parental nutritional knowledge, and family foodways on food security and child well-being -- Julia A Wolfson, University of Michigan, and Noura Insolera, Panel Study of Income Dynamics

Researchers will investigate whether participation in SNAP and/or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is protective against long-term food insecurity.  Moreover, the authors will examine the role of nutritional knowledge in protecting against food insecurity and whether this knowledge mediates the relationship between SNAP/WIC and food insecurity.  Results from this project will assist policy makers in deciding how to improve short- and long-term food security among low-income Americans.