Does Distributing SNAP Benefits Later in the Month Smooth Expenditures?
27 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021
Date Written: January 18, 2021
In this paper, we explore whether the alignment of the date a household receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits with the start of the calendar month affects the smoothness of household monthly expenditures. Across states, what day in the calendar month households receive SNAP benefits varies substantially. Further, other income sources (including transfer payments) and many regular household expenditures (e.g., rent) tend to arrive near the beginning of the calendar month. If the alignment of SNAP benefit receipt with the start of the calendar month reduces expenditure smoothing, there may be important health and behavioral impacts for the SNAP population. Our main result is that increasing the median SNAP distribution date in a state by 10 days reduces the standard deviation of weekly spending by 0.23 dollars or approximately 6.5% for SNAP-eligible households. Results are robust to alternative measures of SNAP date distribution and expenditure smoothing.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation