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Governing National Programs in a Federal System: Household Food Security and Food and Nutrition Service Programs Open Access

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The governance of national programs in a federal system complicates the directing of program performance towards national goals. Even without a substantial degree of formal devolution, a federal system may generate sufficient variation in program features across states to affect access to program benefits, as well as their value or other qualities. The relationship between the multi-billion dollar Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) programs and long-standing national aspirations to reduce household food insecurity is an important, yet underexplored example of how policy choices by states complicate both performance research and management. Often overlooked in the state politics and policy literature, differences in how states govern FNS programs provide opportunities for studying if state choices are associated with household food insecurity. However, the little research conducted to date in this area lacks explicit connection to performance literature and gives insufficient attention to how FNS programs are variously implemented across the nation. The latter deficiency includes both the conceptualization and measurement of governance for food assistance programs. Making use of two research frameworks--Lynn, Heinrich, and Hill's logic of governance performance and Bartfeld and Dunifon's food security infrastructure--I develop and analyze new quantitative models using household demographic data and state predictors from 2001 to 2006 to explore the impact of various decisions by states on the probability that a household is food insecure. Household data are from the Current Population Survey's December Food Security Supplement. State-level data include economic variables and governance indicators created from various sources on state policy decisions and budgets. The results indicate that, after controlling for various household-level and state-level factors, several state policies are associated with a lower probability of household food insecurity, in line with the concept of a food security infrastructure. Particularly robust to model specification is the association between food security and the reporting and recertification demands states place on households participating in the Food Stamp Program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The dissertation also discusses the implication of such models for using food security as a performance indicator in a federal system where many program responsibilities are decentralized.

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