Multigenerational Effects of Early Life Health and Nutrition Investments

Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) currently comprise nearly a quarter of US expenditures on children. The programs have the potential to significantly reduce health and socioeconomic disparities, yet little is known about the impact of these programs on later generations’ health and well-being. 

This study will investigate multi-generational health impacts of the Medicaid and SNAP programs, focusing on the incidence of obesity and other conditions related to metabolic syndrome, asthma, and immune system functionality. These conditions disproportionately affect low-income children and are some of the most expensive in terms of medical bills.

The researchers will use cross-county variation in the timing of SNAP’s initial roll-out (between 1961 and 1975), and variation across states in the expansion of Medicaid eligibility during the 1980 and 1990s, to identify the multi-generational effects of each program.

If access to Medicaid and SNAP can mitigate the intergenerational transmission of these conditions, it would suggest that current cost-benefit analyses substantially underestimate the true value of these programs.