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The Effects of Changing SNAP Work Requirement on the Health and Employment Outcomes of Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents.

OBJECTIVE: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutritional assistance for United States residents with low income. Current SNAP policy discussion focuses on its work requirement: the Able Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs) time limit. This study sets out to analyze the effects the work requirement has on ABAWDs' health and employment status.

METHODS: States can apply a waiver on the ABAWD work requirement if they can establish a labor surplus. Many states had this waiver expired due to economic recovery after the 2008 economic crisis. This study took advantage of a recent natural experiment created by states' differentiated timelines in phasing out the three-month waiver and applies a triple-differences approach to study the effects of the SNAP work requirement, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2015-2016.

RESULTS: SNAP-eligible individuals, including ABAWDS, had more serious physical and mental health conditions compared with higher income individuals. Losing SNAP eligibility increased the incidence of experiencing physically unhealthy days by 14% ( p  < 0.05) but caused no significant change in employment status.

CONCLUSIONS: The ABAWD time limit on SNAP may have negative consequences when there are insufficient opportunities for employment or positions in governmental Employ and Training programs. More studies are needed to better understand the reason for high SNAP participation even when the unemployment rate suggested a strong economy in 2015-2016. Decision-makers should be cautious in removing SNAP eligibility for ABAWDs or states' time-limit waivers.

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