Is There an Nth of the Month Effect? The Timing of SNAP Issuance, Food Expenditures, and Grocery Prices

Jacob Goldin, Tatiana Homonoff, and Katherine Meckel

Previous research on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) suggests that participants consume more food on days immediately following benefit issuance, prompting retailers to raise food prices to capture a portion of the transfer. Partly in response to such findings, some have called for states to stagger benefit issuance over multiple days of the month. To study the effect of staggering benefits, we link variation among states in the timing of benefit issuance to a large panel of transaction-level data from households and retailers. We document large intra-month cycles in food expenditures among SNAP-eligible households that closely track state issuance policies. However, we rule out economically significant effects on retailer pricing, which suggests that staggering benefits would not meaningfully shape the incidence of SNAP benefits.

Wagner Faculty