July 14, 2017

Jennifer Doleac Discusses New Research: Changing Food Stamp Distribution Reduces Grocery Store Theft

Jennifer Doleac, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Economics, spoke to The Washington Post about a new study showing a nearly one-third drop in Chicago grocery store theft by changing the schedule for distributing food stamps.

Doleac, whose research focuses on the economics of crime and discrimination, commented on research showing a decline in theft after Illinois’ distribution of benefits was spread out monthly.

“The state’s policy didn’t involve the provision of more benefits,” Doleac told the Post. “They were just shifting around the timing of when those benefits are given out.”

We’re surprisingly bad at budgeting our spending ourselves, Doleac said, so good policies can help us budget.

The research examined Illinois’ decision to substantially increase the number of distribution days.

The food stamp program, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, serves nearly 45 million low-income Americans. States distribute money supplied by the federal government.

The study, by Analisa Packham of Miami University and Jillian Carr of Purdue University, is here. The Washington Post story is here.

The study notes that “a large body of literature … documents that most SNAP recipients exhaust all benefits well before the end of the month, and … many SNAP recipients may be receiving paychecks from employment or benefits from other government transfer programs on the first” of the month. Giving SNAP benefits later in the month likely helps recipients, the study says.