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Food Stamps and Child Poverty

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In 2000, 8.8 million children received food stamps, making the Food Stamp Program a significant component in the well-being of children in many low-income households. To shed light on the efficacy of food stamps in helping households meet basic needs, ERS researchers added the value of food stamp benefits to household income and then measured the effect on child poverty rates. This "food stamp effect" reduced the number of children in poverty in 2000 by 4 percent, lifting about 500,000 children out of poverty. Such reductions in child poverty are limited by the structure of the Food Stamp Program, where the value of benefits declines as a household's income increases. Although the Food Stamp Program is not designed to reduce child poverty, food stamps do augment the purchasing power of poor households and can improve the well-being of people living in poverty. Augmenting income with the value of food stamp benefits has the effect of reducing child poverty by 20 percent or more. The analysis of the depth and severity of poverty reveals that the Food Stamp Program plays an important role in improving the welfare of children in low-income households.

This article is drawn from...

Issues in Food Assistance—How Do Food Assistance Programs Improve the Well-Being of Low-Income Families?, by Joshua Winicki, Craig Gundersen, and Dean Jolliffe, USDA, Economic Research Service, October 2002

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