Study examines associations among participants in safety-net programs with government perceptions, welfare stigma, and discrimination

Feb 15, 2024

Safety net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP nationally and  CalFresh in California, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, commonly known as EITC, provides great benefits to families facing economic hardship and food insecurity. However, participation in these programs was lower in California compared to the national average. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers examined the associations of participation in SNAP and receipt of the Earned Income Tax Credit with perceptions of government, welfare stigma, and discrimination among families in California with low incomes. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey and interviews involving 497 caregivers of young children in California between August 2020 and May 2021. Study results highlighted that SNAP participants and EITC recipients had greater perceptions of social stigma compared to eligible non-participants in these programs in the beginning of the pandemic. Further, SNAP was associated with program stigma and experiences of discrimination among food-insecure participants. This study suggests that reducing stigma related to safety net program participation is important, and policymakers should consider initiatives to improve messaging and outreach that may help. The study was recently published in the Health Affairs Scholar journal. This study was conducted by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Richard Pulvera and Wendi Gosliner, along with Kaitlyn Jackson and Rita Hamad of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Lia Fernald with the School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley.

By Brianna Aguayo Villalon
Author - Student Communications Fellow
By Richard Pulvera
Editor - Research Data Analyst
By Wendi Gosliner
Editor - Project scientist