Methods. I use wave 3 and kindergarten-entry wave (created from wave 4 and wave 5) from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). The sample includes preschool to kindergarten-entry aged children from families whose average gross yearly income falls below 130 % of the federal poverty threshold in both waves. The dependent variables include: early reading skills; early math skills; and approaches to learning skills. I employ both OLS cross-sectional models and child fixed-effects models (the study’s primary empirical strategy) to assess the relationships between these outcomes and SNAP participation status and whether they are mediated by nutritional intake, controlling for various characteristics of household, household head, and child.
Results. Descriptive results show that children who participated in SNAP showed lower scores on early reading, math, and approaches to learning skills in both waves. This implies the importance of considering possible confounding variables to account for a selection bias problem. While the OLS cross-sectional models found mixed results, the child fixed-effects models, which do a better job of addressing endogeneity concerns, had much more consistent results with the study’s hypotheses. Although no significant results were found on early reading scores, participating in SNAP was significantly related to higher math scores by 0.21 standard deviation and was significantly, but marginally, related to higher approaches to learning skills by 0.15 standard deviation. Results also showed that SNAP participation was significantly related to better nutritional intake; however, there was not evidence of mediation.
Conclusion and Implications. Findings suggest that participating in SNAP program is associated with an improvement in preschool to kindergarten-entry aged children’s development, specifically in mathematics and approaches to learning domains. The author will discuss the policy implications of these results, such as the potential effect of SNAP on children’s academic achievement as we know from prior studies that early math and approaches to learning skills have a strong predictive power of academic achievement.