Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Gabriel Picone, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Padmaja Ayyagari, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrei Barbos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Xin Jin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Troy Quast, Ph.D.


ARRA, Eye-tracking, Health Economics, Nutrition Facts Table


This dissertation estimates the SNAP-eligible individuals’ Body Mass Index (BMI) changes by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) in Chapter 1. It also examines whether the food packages’ nutrition fact tables’ refinements improve SNAP-recipients’ healthy food purchasing decisions in Chapter 2. Below, the summary of these chapters are provided:

  • Chapter 1: The Effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on the Body Mass Index (BMI) of SNAP-Eligible Individuals
  • Chapter 2: Do Changes in the Nutrition Facts Labels Affect SNAP-Participants’ Food Purchasing Decisions?

Chapter 1 studies the effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) on SNAPeligible individuals’ BMI. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest program in the U.S. to protect low-income families from hunger. Although decreasing food insecurity is universally approved, the SNAP program is not without its critiques. Many studies have reported a link between participation in SNAP and obesity among the poor. In this study, the effects of an expansion of SNAP benefits on SNAP-eligible individuals’ BMI compared to ineligible people are examined. The expansion introduced by ARRA increased the average value of benefits for SNAP recipients by about 13.6% compared to the previous year. Accounting for the endogeneity of an explanatory variable and systematic underreporting of participation status are the primary challenges of finding the SNAP’s causal impacts on BMI. The difference-in-differences model is estimated the ARRA-related SNAP-expansion on SNAP-eligible people’s BMI to address the mentioned challenges. Restricted data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 is used, which is a panel of 12,686 individuals aged 14 to 22 years old in the first year of the interview (1979). The fixed-effect estimation results suggest that SNAP expansion increased the BMI rates among SNAP-eligible adults; however, quantile regression shows a different portrait of changes across the whole sample. Although people in lower quantiles of BMI started to lose weight, individuals in higher quantiles reacted significantly different to this event.

Chapter 2 uses an experiment to examine whether changes in the nutrition facts table impact SNAPparticipants’ food label use and food purchasing decisions. World Health Organization (WHO) declared obesity as the principal cause of preventable mortality. According to the results outlined in Chapter 1, ARRA-related SNAP-expansion increased obesity among SNAP-eligible adults, consistent with previous studies. Income effects can explain these findings; If SNAP-recipients have access to more money, they can buy more energy-density meals high in fat and sugar. Conventional economic models make the assumption that people are rational, prospective, and time-consistent. Consequently, these models are insufficient in understanding why people make unhealthy food decisions. Economists have been using psychology studies in recent years to enhance their traditional models and explain the causes of the obesity crisis and future policy approaches. This study contributes to the existing literature by examining whether SNAP recipients’ nutritionfact table viewing and healthy food purchasing are influenced by changing the food labels. Moreover, this chapter studies the possibility of improving the food purchasing decisions by viewing the nutrition facts table. These contributions are made by employing an experiment simulating the shopping experience for SNAP-recipients to analyze whether low-income people’s attention to labels change with the nutrition facts table’s modifications. The findings suggest that SNAP-recipients’ nutrition fact table viewing is influenced by changing the nutrition label’s design and location. Furthermore, the IV Probit model’s results suggest that people who view the nutrition fact labels while shopping are more likely to choose healthier food items.

Included in

Economics Commons