Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The potential impact of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) restrictions on expenditures: a systematic review

  • Joel Cuffey (a1), Timothy KM Beatty (a2) and Lisa Harnack (a3)

To systematically review the potential impact of reducing the set of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-eligible foods (e.g. not allowing purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages with SNAP benefits) on expenditures for restricted foods.


The impact on food expenditures of a $US 1 reduction in available SNAP benefits can be used to estimate the impact of restrictions on SNAP-eligible foods. An electronic search of EconPapers, AgEcon Search, EconLit, WorldCat, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, PubMed and NALDC, and a snowball search were conducted to obtain a sample of studies up to March 2015 that estimate the impacts of SNAP and other income on household food expenditures. The studies were classified according to study population, study design and whether they attempted to correct for major study design biases.


Estimates were extracted from fifty-nine published and unpublished studies.


US households.


Fifty-nine studies were found, yielding 123 estimates of the impact of SNAP benefits on food expenditures and 117 estimates of the difference in impacts between SNAP benefits and other income. Studies correcting for or mitigating study design biases had less estimate variation. Estimates indicate that expenditures on the restricted item would decrease by $US 1·6 to $US 4·8 if $US 10 of SNAP benefits would have otherwise been spent, with a median overall impact of $US 3.


The present literature suggests that restrictions on SNAP-eligible items may result in a small but potentially meaningful decrease in SNAP expenditures for restricted items. Further research is needed to evaluate whether this would translate into improvements in diet quality.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

1. N Larson & M Story (2011) Food insecurity and weight status among US children and families: a review of the literature. Am J Prev Med 40, 166173.

2. C Leung , W Willett & E Ding (2012) Low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation is related to adiposity and metabolic risk factors. Am J Clin Nutr 95, 1724.

5. J Alston , C Mullally , D Sumner et al. (2009) Likely effects on obesity from proposed changes to the US Food Stamp Program. Food Policy 34, 176184.

7. J Currie (2003) US food and nutrition programs. In Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pp. 199289 [R Moffit, editor]. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

10. S Basu , H Seligman , C Gardner et al. (2014) Ending SNAP subsidies for sugar-sweetened beverages could reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes. Health Aff (Millwood) 33, 10321039.

11. T Fraker , A Martini & J Ohls (1995) The effect of food stamp cashout on food expenditures: an assessment of the findings from four demonstrations. J Hum Resour 30, 633649.

13. GJ Arcia , LA Crouch & RA Kulka (1990) Impact of the WIC program on food expenditures. Am J Agric Econ 72, 218226.

14. P Basiotis , M Brown , SR Johnson et al. (1983) Nutrient availability, food costs, and food stamps. Am J Agric Econ 65, 685693.

15. P Basiotis , SR Johnson , KJ Morgan et al. (1987) Food stamps, food costs, nutrient availability, and nutrient intake. J Policy Model 9, 383404.

17. TKM Beatty & C Tuttle (2014) Expenditure response to increases in in-kind transfers: evidence from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Am J Agric Econ 97, 390404.

18. J Benus , J Kmenta & H Shapiro (1976) The dynamics of household budget allocation to food expenditures. Rev Econ Stat 58, 129138.

21. R Breunig & I Dasgupta (2005) Do intra-household effects generate the food stamp cash-out puzzle? Am J Agric Econ 87, 552568.

25. J Chavas & ML Yeung (1982) Effects of the food stamp program on food consumption in the southern United States. South J Agric Econ 14, 131139.

27. KW Clarkson (1976) Welfare benefits of the food stamp program. South Econ J 43, 864878.

31. B Devaney & T Fraker (1986) Cashing out food stamps: impacts on food expenditures and diet quality. J Policy Anal Manage 5, 725741.

32. B Devaney & T Fraker (1989) The effect of food stamps on food expenditures: an assessment of findings from the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey. Am J Agric Econ 71, 99104.

33. C Davis , J Sanderson , L Bailey et al. (1986) Effects of food stamp participation and other sociodemographic characteristics on food expenditure pattern of elderly minority households. Rev Black Polit Econ 15, 325.

39. D Hollonbeck , J Ohls & B Posner (1985) The effects of cashing out food stamps on food expenditures. Am J Agric Econ 67, 609613.

40. H Hoynes & D Schanzenbach (2009) Consumption responses to in-kind transfers: evidence from the introduction of the Food Stamp Program. Am Econ J Appl Econ 1, 109139.

42. S Hymans & H Shapiro (1976) The allocation of household income to food consumption. J Econom 4, 167188.

46. C Kramer-LeBlanc , P Basiotis & E Kennedy (1997) Maintaining food and nutrition security in the United States with welfare reform. Am J Agric Econ 79, 16001607.

47. S Lane (1978) Food distribution and Food Stamp Program effects on food consumption and nutritional ‘achievement’ of low income persons in Kern County, California. Am J Agric Econ 60, 108116.

51. B Lin , S Yen , D Dong et al. (2010) Economic incentives for dietary improvement among food stamp recipients. Contemp Econ Policy 28, 524536.

52. S Long (1991) Do the school nutrition programs supplement household food expenditures? J Hum Resour 26, 654678.

53. R Moffit (1989) Estimating the value of an in-kind transfer: the case of food stamps. Econometrica 57, 385409.

54. J Morgan (1985) Comparing static and dynamic estimates of behavioral responses to changes in family composition or income. J Consum Res 12, 8389.

55. P Neenan & C Davis (1977) Impact of the Food Stamp Program on low income household food consumption in rural Florida. South J Agric Econ 9, 8997.

58. C Ranney & J Cushman (1987) Cash equivalence, welfare stigma, and food stamps. South Econ J 53, 10111027.

63. B Senauer & N Young (1986) Impact of food stamps on food expenditures: rejection of the traditional model. Am J Agric Econ 68, 3743.

66. D West & D Price (1976) The effects of income, assets, food programs, and household size on food consumption. Am J Agric Econ 58, 725730.

70. T Andreyeva , J Luedicke , K Henderson et al. (2012) Grocery store beverage choices by participants in federal food assistance and nutrition programs. Am J Prev Med 43, 411418.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 102 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 646 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 26th April 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.