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Employed in a SNAP? The Impact of Work Requirements on Program Participation and Labor Supply


Work requirements are common in U.S. safety net programs. Evidence remains limited, however, on the extent to which work requirements increase economic self-sufficiency or screen out vulnerable individuals. We use linked administrative data on food stamps (SNAP) and earnings to study the effects of work requirements on program participation and labor market outcomes. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that work requirements reduce retention of existing program beneficiaries by 38 percent and reduce overall SNAP participation by 52 percent. Very low-income and homeless adults are disproportionately screened out. We fail to find evidence of improvements in economic self-sufficiency among the majority of the sample. Our estimates statistically rule out average employment increases of more than 2 percentage points. We do find evidence of increased earnings along a small portion of the earnings distribution near a key eligibility threshold. Finally, we provide conditions under which SNAP work requirements are efficient with respect to the marginal value of public funds.


Working Paper


Elena Prager, Adam Leive, Mary Zaki, Colin Gray, Kelsey Pukelis

Date Published



Prager, Elena, Adam Leive, Mary Zaki, Colin Gray, and Kelsey Pukelis. 2020. Employed in a SNAP? The Impact of Work Requirements on Program Participation and Labor Supply.


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