Testimony of Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Peterson, and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today at this hearing on the Pros and Cons of Restricting Purchases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
My name is Diane Schanzenbach, I am Director of the Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution, where I am also a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies.
I am also a Professor of Social Policy and Economics at Northwestern University. For the past two decades, I have conducted and published numerous peer-reviewed research studies and book chapters on the U.S. safety net, including SNAP and the Food Stamp Program. I also study childhood obesity, food consumption, and food insecurity. I recently served as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Examination of the Adequacy of Food Resources and SNAP Allotments.
My testimony today draws primarily from research that I have conducted or reviewed that considers the role of SNAP and other influences on food consumption and food insecurity.
SNAP is a highly efficient and effective program. It lifted nearly 5 million people out of poverty in 2014 (the most recent data available).1 SNAP is targeted efficiently to families who need benefits the most, reduces the likelihood that families have trouble affording food, and serves as an automatic fiscal stabilizer in times of economic downturns.2, 3 It has extremely low rates of both error and fraud.4, 5 SNAP also has long-term benefits to children. My own recent research study found that those who had access to SNAP benefits during childhood were more likely to graduate from high school, grew up to be healthier, and women in particular were more likely to become economically self-sufficient due to childhood access to SNAP benefits, as shown in Figure 1.
1. Sherman, Arloc. 2015, September 16. “Safety Net Programs Lift Millions From Poverty, New Census Data Show.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington DC. Available at: http://www.cbpp.org/blog/safety-net-programs-lift-millions-from-poverty-new-census-data-show
2. Institute for Research on Poverty. 2015, November. “SNAP, Food Security, and Health.” Policy Brief No. 8, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI. Available at: http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/policybriefs/pdfs/PB8-SNAPFoodSecurityHealth.pdf
3. Schanzenbach, Diane Whitmore, Lauren Bauer, and Greg Nantz. 2016, April 21. “Twelve Facts about Food Insecurity and SNAP.” Economic Facts, The Hamilton Project, Washington, DC. Available at: https://www.hamiltonproject.org/papers/twelve_facts_about_food_insecurity_and_snap
4. Rosenbaum, Dottie. 2014, July 2. “SNAP Error Rates at All-Time Lows.” Report, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, DC. http://www.cbpp.org/research/snap-error-rates-at-all-time-lows
5. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 2013, August 15. “USDA Releases New Report on Trafficking and Announces Additional Measures to Improve Integrity in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC. Available at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/pressrelease/2013/fns-001213