Take-up and Targeting: Experimental Evidence from SNAP
This paper develops a framework for evaluating the welfare impact of various interventions designed to increase take-up of social safety net programs in the presence of potential behavioral biases. We calibrate the key parameters using a randomized field experiment in which 30,000 elderly individuals not enrolled in – but likely eligible for – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are either provided with information that they are likely eligible, provided with this information and also offered assistance in applying, or are in a “status quo” control group. Only 6 percent of the control group enrolls in SNAP over the next 9 months, compared to 11 percent of the Information Only group and 18 percent of the Information Plus Assistance group. The individuals who apply or enroll in response to either intervention receive lower benefits and are less sick than the average enrollee in the control group. The results are consistent with the existence of optimization frictions that are greater for needier individuals, suggesting that the poor targeting properties of the interventions reduce their welfare gains.
We are grateful to Martin Aragoneses, Aileen Devlin, Carolyn Stein, John Tebes and Ting Wang for excellent research assistance and to Laura Feeney for superb research management. We thank our excellent partners at Benefits Data Trust, and particularly Rachel Cahill and Matt Stevens who worked tirelessly and patiently to address our inumerable requests and questions. We thank Abhijit Banerjee, Stefano DellaVigna, Manasi Deshpande, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, Colin Gray, Nathan Hendren, Henrik Kleven, Kory Kroft, Elira Kuka, Ben Olken, Jesse Shapiro, Chris Udry, and numerous seminar participants for helpful comments. The experiment reported in this study is listed in the AEA RCT Registry (#0000902). We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Amy Finkelstein & Matthew J Notowidigdo, 2019. "Take-Up and Targeting: Experimental Evidence from SNAP*," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol 134(3), pages 1505-1556.