The Consequences of Food Insecurity for Child Well-Being: An Analysis of Children’s School Achievement, Psychological Well-Being, and Health

Year: 1999

Research Center: Joint Center for Poverty Research, University of Chicago and Northwestern University

Investigator: Reid, Lori

Institution: Florida State University

Project Contact:
Lori Reid
Department of Sociology
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2270


The effect of food insecurity on child well-being has been the subject of much research in developing countries. With a few exceptions, research on food insecurity in the United States has focused on examining the causes of food insecurity, potential solutions, and, more recently, on assessing the incidence of food insecurity. Very little research has attempted to analyze the effect of food insecurity on child well-being in the United States. Reid uses the 1997 Child Development Supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine the effects of food insecurity on school achievement, psychological well-being, and health of children.

The analyses provide evidence that food insecurity affects a child’s school achievement and psychological well-being. They do not support a hypothesized negative impact of food insecurity on child health. Using children’s assessment scores for the letter-word, application, passage comprehension, and calculation subtests of the Woodcock Johnson test as measures for school achievement, Reid finds that food insecurity depresses children’s scores on the letter-word, passage comprehension, and calculation subtests. Similarly, using indices of external and internal behavior problems as measures of psychological well-being, her results show food insecurity increases the numbers of both external and internal behavior problems among children. However, Reid finds no effect of food insecurity on child health when measured by indicators of low height-for-age and low weight-for-age.