2008–2009 Funded Proposals

IRP and the Economic Research Service of the USDA have for several years sponsored the Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE) competition, which provides small grants for research on poverty and food assistance programs. Research projects being funded for 2008–2009 are described below.

This year’s competition offered grants in amount of $40,000. Its application deadline was May 2, 2008. The application guidelines are available online. Abstracts of funded proposals for 2008–2009 are below; abstracts for academic years 2007–2008 and earlier are also available on this Web site. Full reports of all RIDGE projects are posted on this Web site as they become available and summaries are available in a national database on the USDA Web site at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodNutritionAssistance/Funding/RIDGEprojects.asp.

Proposals funded for the period July 1, 2008–December 31, 2009:


Nutrition and Cognitive Achievement: An Evaluation of the School Breakfast Program
David E. Frisvold, Emory University

A variety of research studies have established that better nourished children perform better in school. Because food insecurity, food insufficiency, and nutrition deficiencies are more prevalent for poor children than non-poor children, low-income children are less likely to acquire the educational benefits from better nutrition. This project will investigate the influence of the School Breakfast Program, a food assistance program that provides breakfast to low-income students at a subsidized cost, on cognitive achievement.

The Effects of Female Labor Force Participation on Adult and Childhood Obesity
Oscar A. Mitnik, University of Miami

Obesity is a major health problem in the United States. Obesity rates in the last 20 years have more than doubled for adults, and more than tripled for children. Coincident with these obesity trends, a consensus has emerged about the health risks associated with obesity and physical inactivity, and the individual and social costs that those risks imply. The objective of this project is to assess whether a causal relationship exists between increases in female labor force participation and increases in adult and childhood obesity. In particular, the study will concentrate on one of the most vulnerable groups, low-education single mothers and their children.

What Will the Neighbors Think? Welfare Stigma Due to Public Disapproval
Kevin Mumford, Purdue University, and Colleen Flaherty Manchester, University of Minnesota

The existing literature on welfare participation in economics and sociology attributes the decision by eligible individuals not to participate in welfare to the influence of sizable utility costs associated with participation. This project will examine the psychological cost of participation into costs due to the treatment by others (external stigma) and costs generated internally by the individual due to relying on government assistance (internal stigma). The recent adoption of an electronic-benefit-transfer system facilitates the separate identification of these two psychological costs. The results of the analysis will be used to evaluate how much reduction in psychological costs was achieved by the introduction of the EBT system for food stamp transactions as well as how a similar system could reduce the psychological costs associated with WIC participation.

The Impact of WIC Participation on Food Insecurity and Early Childhood Health Outcomes for a Nationally Representative Sample of Children
P. Johnelle Sparks, University of Texas at San Antonio

The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has been very successful in providing food assistance, education, and access to other social services for low-income families in the United States. To address the overall effectiveness of WIC, research is needed that focuses on how WIC may serve as a mediating mechanism to reduce disparities in early childhood health outcomes for low-income children by reducing the impact of food insecurity in these families and offering additional social service resources to eligible WIC participants. This research will examine the relationship between WIC participation, food insecurity, persistent poverty, race/ethnicity, and other sociodemographic variables as they influence parents’ assessment of the child’s health status.