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The goal of this research is to quantify the association between food insecurity and smoking among low-income families. This analysis is a retrospective study using data from the 2001 Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a longitudinal study of a representative sample of U.S. men, women, and children and the family units in which they reside. Family income is linked with U.S. poverty thresholds to identify 2,099 families living near or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Food insecurity (that is, having insufficient funds to purchase enough food to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle) is calculated from the eighteen core items in the food security module of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The results indicate that smoking prevalence is higher among low-income families who are food insecure compared to low-income families who are food secure (43.6 percent versus 31.9 percent). Multivariate analysis reveals that smoking is associated with an increase in food insecurity of approximately 6 percentage points. Given our finding that families near the federal poverty level spend a large share of their income on cigarettes, perhaps it would be prudent for food assistance and tobacco control programs to work together to help low-income people quit smoking.
JEL classification: I18, I38
Key words: food security, smoking, poverty
The authors thank Ralph Caraballo, Trevor Woollery, Ann Malarcher, Corinne Husten, Terry Pechacek, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. The views expressed here are the authors' and not necessarily those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors' responsibility.
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