Issuance and Incidence: SNAP Benefit Cycles and Grocery Prices
43 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 8, 2019
Many safety-net programs issue benefits as lump-sum payments at regular intervals. We examine how the timing of benefit distribution can shape the incidence of the transfer. We use retail scanner data from a large and nationally representative sample of grocery stores along with state and time variation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). We document large, SNAP-induced intra-month cycles in food expenditures and customer composition. However, we find that retailers do not adjust prices based on these predictable patterns of customer demand. Our results illustrate how decisions about program administration can shape the incidence of in-kind transfers.
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