We evaluate the claim that marginal 'welfare stigma' causes a dollar of food to provide less utility if bought with food stamps rather than cash, and that this explains why, in the United States, the marginal propensity to consume food out of food stamps is larger than that out of income. This hypothesis has been advanced to explain the so-called 'cash-out puzzle': the empirical observation that the marginal propensity to consume food out of food stamps is much higher than that out of income, even for households who spend some cash income on food. We develop a theoretical model to identify the restrictions imposed by the hypothesis that the puzzle is indeed caused by such stigma. Using data from San Diego County, we find that two of the three predictions of the marginal stigma model are violated. These results cast serious doubt on the marginal stigma hypothesis.
|Journal||Journal of Agricultural Economics|
|Publication status||Published - 2003|