Food Stamp Program Access Study: Final Report

Susan Bartlett, Nancy Burstein, and William Hamilton, with the assistance of Ryan Kling

November 2004

The Food Stamp Program Access Study was motivated by a desire to learn whether and how the administrative policies and practices of local food stamp offices influence the chances of eligible households participating in the program. This report examines the participation decisions of potentially eligible households, together with the local office policies and practices that may enhance or inhibit program access. The findings indicate that many households with no recent contact with the FSP would apply for benefits if they believed themselves to be eligible. In addition, outreach activities are effective in communicating eligibility to nonparticipating households. The processes of application and recertification-and to a lesser extent, complying with ongoing program requirements-are hurdles that a sizable number of apparently eligible households fail to surmount. When surveyed, applicants and program dropouts cited various procedural obstacles as factors in their decision not to participate. The econometric analysis also identifies a number of office practices that vary across offices and appear to be significant in participation decisions.

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