Explaining Variations in State Hunger Rates

September 5, 2005 Download PDF

A large and rapidly expanding body of research has examined causes of household-level food insecurity and hunger. A definitive explanation has not emerged that links State prevalence rates of hunger to State-level characteristics such as poverty, employment, and per capita income. In this article, we examined the effect of State-level economic and demographic characteristics on State prevalence rates of food insecurity and hunger.

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Using food-security data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Census data on all 50 States and the District of Columbia, we first estimated, by using ordinary least squares regression, the associations of food insecurity and hunger with a small number of carefully chosen State-level factors. Based on these associations, we then examined the extent to which these factors explained the high rate of hunger in Oregon and, as a contrast, the lower-than-expected rate of hunger in West Virginia. Findings of our study suggest that to reduce hunger rates, policymakers should consider ways to mitigate income shocks associated with high mobility and unemployment and reduce the share of income spent on rent by low-income families.

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