Three Essays on the Economics of Nutrition Assistance and Food Security





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This dissertation focuses on the economics of nutrition assistance and food security. The first essay tests the substitution effect between public and private nutrition assistance programs in the United States. It is the first to address the causal relationship between shocks in the availability of public nutrition assistance and low-income households’ private nutrition assistance utilization. In particular, we examined the way in which loss of WIC benefits when children aged-out of WIC eligibility impacted a household’s utilization of private food assistance. Using a regression discontinuity analysis framework, I found that households significantly increased utilization of private nutrition assistance following a negative shock in the availability of public nutrition assistance. Estimates indicated that some households might have been able to compensate 50 – 80 percent of their loss in public WIC nutrition assistance by increasing the frequency of utilization of private nutrition assistance. The second essay exploited the expansion of Community Distribution Partners (CDPs) of Crossroads Community Service (CCS) to investigate if the reduction of travel costs improved low-income households’ utilization of private nutrition assistance. I found that after a new CDP within 2 km from a client’s address was opened, potentially shortening client’s traveling distance, nearby clients’ visiting frequency increased by 4.4% compared to clients living farther from this CDP site. The third essay investigated the impact of E-verify mandates, which make it more difficult for certain undocumented workers to find a new job, on the food security status of both citizens and non-citizens. Using a Difference in Difference approach and data from CPS’s food security supplements, this study found that even through E-verify mandates had no significant effects on family income, they had unintended consequences on households’ food security. E-verify mandates reduced the food security of both U.S citizens and non-citizens residing in the U.S. The effect was consistent over different sub-types of food security measures.



Food security, Nutrition policy, Food relief, Policy sciences, Regression analysis, Econometrics


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