Related BLS programs | Related articles
July, 1988, Vol. 111, No. 7
End of purchase requirement fails
to change food stamp participation
The Food Stamp Program was established in 1964 to "...raise levels of nutrition among low-income households..."1 The program has grown since its inception so that in 1985, the program cost almost $20 billion and benefited an average 19 million people per month. How best to distribute benefits to program participants has been debated. Should participants be required to purchase food stamps? Should participants be given the value of the stamps in cash, rather than coupons? At the start of the program, participants were required to purchase the stamps. The amount by which the value of the stamps exceeded the purchase price was the actual benefit level, called the bonus. The 1977 Food Stamp Act began a new era in food stamp benefit distribution by eliminating the purchase requirement. This change took effect in 1979. A great deal of research has been done examining the characteristics of program participants, and the determinants of participation. However, little research has been done using data collected since the elimination of the purchase requirement.2 The purchase requirement was believed to discourage participation by adding to the application burden which is the cost in terms of time and effort needed by the applicant to take part in the program.3 It is reasonable to expect that this discouraged participation unevenly across the demographic spectrum of food stamp eligibles.4
This article compares the characteristics of participants in the program to those eligible but not participating, and examines the demographic factors related to participation using data collected after the elimination of the purchase requirement. The results of this study will indicate if any substantial changes in the characteristics of participants and the factors related to participation have occurred since the program's structure was altered.
This excerpt is from an article published in the July 1988 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full article in PDF (438K)
1 See The Food Stamp Act of 1964, Public Law 88-525, 88th Cong., 1964 (H.R. 10222).
3 Additionally, if the purchase requirement exceeded the usual food expenditure by the household, participation was discouraged.4 This point is more fully discussed in this article while exploring how the application burden could lead to differences in participation rates among demographic groups.
Related BLS programs
Consumer Expenditure Survey
Related Monthly Labor Review articles
Spending patterns of public-assisted families.—May 2000.
Spending patterns of families receiving public assistance.—Apr. 1996.989.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers