SNAP Benefits and Pregnancy-Related Emergency Room Visits
Pregnant women are likely to be sensitive to daily fluctuations in nutritional intake. To see if income constraints at the end of the month limit food consumption and trigger health problems, we examine how the date that benefits are issued for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) changes the probability that a woman will go to the Emergency Room (ER) for pregnancy-related conditions using administrative data from SNAP and Medicaid from Missouri for 2010–2013. SNAP benefits in Missouri are distributed from the 1st through the 22nd day of the month based on the birth month and the first letter of the last name of the head of the household, making timing of SNAP issuance exogenous. We estimate probit models of the calendar month and SNAP benefit month on the probability of a pregnancy-related ER visit for women age 17–45, or the sample at risk of being pregnant. We also examine the relationship between SNAP benefit levels and ER visits. We found that women who received SNAP benefits in the second or third week of the calendar month were less likely to receive pregnancy-related care through the ER in the week following benefit receipt. Results suggest that SNAP benefits might be related to patterns of pregnancy-related medical care accessed through the ER. Since SNAP issuance date is within state control in the United States, states may want to consider the health effects of their choice.
KeywordsFood stamps Food insecurity Health Pregnancy
Financial support for this study was received by the US Department of Agriculture through Cooperative Agreement 58-4000-6-0055-R.
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