Effects of Maternal Depression on Family Food Insecurity

Nancy E. Reichman, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Hope Corman, Rider University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Kelly Noonan, Rider University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Theory suggests that adverse life events—such as unemployment or health shocks—can result in food insecurity, which has increased substantially in the U.S. over the past decade alongside the obesity epidemic. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort, we test this proposition by estimating the effects of a specific and salient mental health event—-maternal postpartum depression—-on child and family food insecurity. We estimate the effects of postpartum depression on food insecurity using both single- and two-stage models and explore potential buffering effects of public assistance programs and supports. We find robust evidence that postpartum depression increases food insecurity and that food and cash assistance programs appear to play a buffering role. The findings underscore that the relationship between mental health and material hardship can be bi-directional and have implications for children's health trajectories and public policy.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Health of Women, Children, and Families