2013 Recipients

The RIDGE Center for Targeted Studies is pleased to announce that the following four grant proposals were selected by the RIDGE National Research Advisory Committee for funding as part of the Center’s 2013 competitive grants program.

1. Health, Economic Instability and Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Principal Investigator(s): Jinhee Kim, University of Maryland; Yunhee Chang, University of Mississippi; and Swam Chatterjee, University of Georgia

Project Summary: The primary objective in this project is to determine the effects of health on the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation among low-income, low-asset families living in the Southern States. Specifically, using nationally representative longitudinal data, we investigate how adverse changes in individuals' health conditions, as well as changes in their out-of-pocket medical expenditures, have affected SNAP participation, and whether such influences, if any, have been associated with the low asset holdings and inability to borrow. This study investigates whether liquidity constraint is a mediator that aggravates the association between health and SNAP participation and whether there is a difference between those that have health insurance and those that do not.

Data will be drawn from the 2003-2009 Panel Study of lncome Dynamics (PSID). The PSID is a national longitudinal survey that includes over 2,000 households living in the South. It also includes detailed information on wealth, health, household expenditures, insurance, and program participation of each household. The longitudinal aspect of the data not only allows us to examine whether and how changes in a household's health conditions, medical expenditures, and asset holdings are associated with the likelihood of SNAP participation in the subsequent period, but it also enables us to account for macroeconomic dynamics in time fixed effects models. State-level variations in policy environment are also controlled through state fixed effects. The knowledge gained should lead to more effective interventions and informed policy decisions for low-income households including food, health insurance, and asset building programs.

2. Food Prices, Time Values, and Time Spent on Food Shopping and Meal Preparation: Rural­ Urban Disparities

Principal Investigator: Ning Zhang, University of Massachusetts

Project Summary: Obesity in the US is not only a public health concern, but it also deteriorates rural-urban disparities in various health conditions. In general, obesity rates in rural areas are higher than in urban areas. Studies have suggested that eating habits may be one reason for these disparities. However, differences in the determinants of eating habits between rural and urban residents are still unknown. This proposed study will address influence of price on eating patterns between people living in rural or urban locations, as well as whether price effects contribute to the rural-urban disparities in obesity.

This study has the following three aims: (1) Identify rural-urban differences in time spent on a) food shopping, b) meal preparation, c) at-home eating, and d) eating at restaurants; (2) Identify how food prices and time value (measured by wages) affect time allocation and how rural residents vary in this relationship; and (3) Identify how changes in time allocation affect weight status and how resident location affects this relationship. Results from this study will help policy makers to formulate policies designed to combat obesity and reduce rural-urban disparities in obesity.

3. Rural vs. Urban Texas WIC Children Food Choices and Intakes Before and After Changes in the Food Benefits

Principal Investigator: Ariun Ishdorj, Texas A&M University

Project Summary: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is one of the largest food assistance programs in the United States, which targets low­ income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants and children up to age five. In 2009, new food packages were implemented, including the addition of fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods, as well as reduction in the amount of milk and the removal of whole milk. Although the WIC program has been studied extensively, the potential impacts of the revised food packages on women and children participants are largely unknown.

Using a unique dataset of Texas WIC participating children, we propose a study of the programmatic changes in the WIC program. We center our attention on whole, 2%, 1% and skim milk, 100% juice and sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened beverage choices of WIC participating children of ages two through five before and after changes in the WIC program. Knowledge about individual food choices and consumption patterns behavior is important to gain a better understanding of program. The research will produce new information about how the changes in WIC food packages affect milk and beverage consumption patterns of Texas WIC children in rural and urban areas and will specifically answer the questions: What is the differential effect of the removal of whole milk and reduction in the total amount of milk provided by WIC on milk consumption of WIC children? Who are the children most affected by changes in the program and how are they affected?

4. New Versus Return Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program During the Great Recession

Principal Investigator: Lloyd D. Grieger, Yale University

Project Summary: Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) climbed to historic levels during and immediately following the great recession. This spike in participation features prominently in the current public discourse about the government's role in providing a social safety net and the future of federal entitlement programs amid a growing national debt problem. Large increases in SNAP participation are often cited as evidence of a growing 'culture of dependency’, contributing to an America where it is commonplace for the typical household budget to include some form of government assistance. However, it is unclear whether the recession-era increases in SNAP participation represented an influx of new participants or a mass return by former participants coinciding with the economic downturn. It is also unclear if new participants were differently concentrated in urban versus rural areas, and whether the demographic profiles of participants varied based on household geography. Using panel data spanning over four decades, I will reconstruct the SNAP participation histories of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults in order to examine the extent to which the great recession coaxed new versus return participants to the SNAP program. I will also examine whether new participants were differently distributed across urban or rural areas and whether the great recession period was unique in terms of inducing new participation from older individuals. The findings from this study have the potential to clarify commonly held misperceptions about the demographics of SNAP participants, adding texture to debates about the future of this federal entitlement program.


Two proposals submitted as part of the RIDGE Center for Targeted Studies’ doctoral dissertation research program were recently selected for funding as part of the 2013 competitive grants program:

1. Contextual Influences on Household and Child Food Security Among Recent Mexican-origin Immigrant Families

Doctoral Student: Amanda C. McClain, Cornell University

Supervising Professor: Jamie Dollahite, Associate Professor of Community Nutrition; Cornell University

Project Summary: The goal of this project is to elucidate the ecological and migratory influences on coping strategies and food security, and the effectiveness of these coping strategies to reduce food insecurity, as perceived by key community informants and rural and urban, low-income, Mexican­ origin immigrant mothers living in New York State (NYS). Mexican-origin immigrants are at high risk of food insecurity and the majority of children living in poverty in the U.S. have at least one Mexican-origin immigrant parent. Thus, the rapid growth of this population across the U.S., including the northeast, suggests a growing number of families with children living in food insecure conditions. Past research has primarily focused on areas of the southwest and southeast, so little context-specific information is available for these immigrants in the northeast. NYS is an appropriate area for research with this population since it, like many northeastern states, is experiencing recent and rapid growth of this population in the context of a high cost of living. The proposed research is unique in its theoretical and methodological approach; an ecological and life course perspective will guide three face-to-face interviews, the second being a photo elicitation interview, with recent Mexican-origin immigrant mothers of young children, and one interview with key community informants. Recruitment will be initiated through collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) partners in one county in the state of New York. Study results will be translational, directly informing community-based, targeted programming through CCE and other community agencies to prevent and reduce household and child food insecurity in this population.

2. Credit Access and Supermarket Consumption Amongst the Uquidity Constrained

Doctoral Student: Mary Zaki, Northwestern University

Supervising Professor: Diane Schanzenback, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Project Summary: Past research has found that various subpopulations tend to consume Jess food the further they are from their payday. The spike and subsequent decline in food consumption appears to be caused by individuals running out of funds towards the end of their pay cycle. The literature suggests that those who lack access to credit have a larger risk of food insecurity by the end of the pay cycle, and are more sensitive to the timing of their paychecks. In my dissertation research, I will document the between paycheck food consumption patterns among a population of US military personnel. I will then investigate the effects of access to short-term credit instruments, commonly known as "payday loans", on daily food intake patterns. Specifically I will analyze if access to payday loans helps individuals consume at more constant levels between income receipts. Finally, I will investigate if access to payday loans changes the composition of supermarket purchases that individuals make. To uncover the relationship between payday loans and daily food consumption, I will use military supermarket sales data in a triple difference-in-difference framework. The framework will take advantage of a natural experiment that changed the availability of payday loans to military personnel across states and time in the United States. My results will be able to inform us if liquidity constrained individuals have the ability to smooth their food consumption with the use of short-term credit. Such findings would directly inform policymakers whether to promote such forms of credit or to restrict them.