Date of Award

8-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Economics

Advisor

Todd Gabe

Second Committee Member

Kathleen Bell

Third Committee Member

Philip Trostel

Abstract

Household food insecurity, as defined by the USDA, is expected to result from low income, yet in 2007 a significant number of mid- to high-income households registered food insecurity, according to the nationally representative Current Population Survey. Previous research identifies extraordinary economic circumstances such as unexpected medical expenses, change in household structure, and job loss as the underlying cause of such anomaly, and credits factors such as home ownership, borrowing capacity and savings, and access to food assistance programs as buffers against these household shocks.

This thesis employs quantitative analysis to identify what factors contribute to the likelihood of an individual being in poverty, being food insecure, and falling into one of four poverty-food security conditions of in-poverty and food-secure, in-poverty and food-insecure, not-in-poverty and food-secure, and not-in-poverty and food-insecure. The thesis then makes a qualitative exploration of the role of home ownership in mitigating the effects of poverty on food insecurity for segments of our sample population that are found to experience poverty and food insecurity in unequal degrees. Results show that gender, race, ethnicity, marital status, household number and composition, and age are significant predictors of head of household poverty, food insecurity, and poverty-food security status. Households headed by Hispanics, individuals never married, separated/ widowed/divorced, or with children present experience food insecurity to a lesser degree than poverty, while the opposite is true for heads of households holding a Bachelor's degree.

Results show also that rates of food insecurity are lower for homeowners in our full sample regardless of poverty status, but not so for our subpopulations when compared to their home-owning counterparts. This evidence suggests that home ownership does mitigate the effects of poverty on food insecurity, but other factors must explain the incongruities in our subpopulations.

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