Hungry for Success? SNAP Timing, High-Stakes Exam Performance, and College Attendance

Timothy Bond:

Monthly government transfer programs create cycles of consumption that track the timing of benefit receipt. In this paper, we exploit state-level variation in the staggered timing of nutritional assistance benefit issuance across households to analyze how this monthly cyclicality in food availability affects academic achievement. Using individual-level score data from a large national college admissions exam in the United States linked to national college enrollment data, we find that taking this high-stakes exam in the last two weeks of the SNAP benefit cycle reduces test scores and lowers the probability of attending a 4-year college for low-income high school students.