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SNAP Take-Up Evaluation
Last registered on October 23, 2015

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
SNAP Take-Up Evaluation
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0000902
Initial registration date
October 23, 2015
Last updated
October 23, 2015 11:25 AM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
MIT
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Northwestern University
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2015-09-28
End date
2018-01-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Benefits Data Trust (BDT) is a national not-for-profit organization based in Philadelphia committed to transforming how individuals in need access public benefits. Using a data-driven and technology-based approach, BDT provides targeted outreach and comprehensive applications assistance to individuals who are likely eligible for public benefits.

This randomized trial investigates the impact of BDT’s outreach and application assistance to individuals aged 60 and over who are likely to be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Through random assignment to receive BDT’s assistance, outreach only, or to control, we plan to study the impact of outreach and application assistance on the level of take-up and characteristics of the marginal individual induced to enroll due to the intervention.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Finkelstein, Amy and Matthew Notowidigdo. 2015. "SNAP Take-Up Evaluation." AEA RCT Registry. October 23. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.902-1.0.
Former Citation
Finkelstein, Amy, Amy Finkelstein and Matthew Notowidigdo. 2015. "SNAP Take-Up Evaluation." AEA RCT Registry. October 23. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/902/history/5733.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
“Low Touch” Interventions: BDT will send a letter to individuals who are likely to be eligible for SNAP informing them of their potential eligibility, and providing contact information for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which is the agency in charge of processing SNAP applications. If the household has not called the number listed on the letter within 8 weeks, additional outreach, this time a postcard, will be sent with the same information.

“High Touch” Interventions: BDT will send a letter to individuals who are likely to be eligible for SNAP informing them of their potential eligibility, and providing contact information for their in-house call center. As in the “low touch” interventions, if the household has not called the number listed on the letter within 8 weeks, a postcard will be sent with the same information.

If the individual or household is interested in applying for benefits, BDT will help them determine if they are eligible, complete the application on their behalf, help them assemble the necessary documentation, and submit the completed application to the appropriate government agency. BDT simplifies the application process by completing applications by telephone and allowing applicants to sign the application via telephonic signature.

Control: The control group will not receive any letters or contact information.
Intervention Start Date
2015-11-04
Intervention End Date
2016-05-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Primary: Number of SNAP enrollees

Secondary:
Baseline characteristics of enrollees (e.g. demographics, measures of economic well-being, measures of health etc)
Number of SNAP applications
Baseline characteristics of applicants
Number of responses to outreach letters (i.e., phone calls to the number listed on the outreach letter)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We are interested in measuring characteristics of the enrollees, for example measures of economic well-being, demographics and health status. Which characteristics we measure and how we measure them will depend largely on the quality and availability of data.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Individuals were selected from a list of Pennsylvania residents 60 and over who received Medicaid in the last year, but did not receive SNAP. Residents from Philadelphia were excluded from the sample because BDT has frequently conducted similar outreach campaigns in Philadelphia. From this list, households were randomly assigned in equal proportions to Control, Low Touch, or High Touch interventions.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer (Stata)
Randomization Unit
Household
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
31,165 households
Sample size: planned number of observations
31,165 households
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
10,389 households control, 10,388 households low touch, 10,388 households high touch
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Using historical statistics provided by BDT on outreach to Medicaid recipients in Philadelphia and Maryland, preliminary power calculations suggest that the minimum detectable effect size is a 2 percentage point change (34%) or less in enrollment when comparing any two treatment arms, assuming conventional 80% power and 95% confidence intervals. We assume 4 percent of the control group enrolls in SNAP absent any intervention (standard deviation = .2). This effect size is smaller than effects seen in historical program data and in the literature for similar outreach interventions. Using the same assumptions noted above, we estimate power to detect differences between treatment arms in average characteristics of those who apply and/or enroll in SNAP. Instead of specifying particular characteristics, we explore power to detect percentage point changes in a standard indicator that half of the control group is assumed to display (e.g. has less than median income). Thus, by construction, the standard deviation of the outcome is .5 for the control group. We find that for comparison of the High Touch and Control groups we are powered to minimum effect sizes of 8.3 percentage points, and for comparison of other any other two study arms we are powered to detect less than 16 percentage point differences. In light of the few studies that examine similar questions average enrollee characteristics, this study appears sufficiently powered to detect meaningful differences in characteristics.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
NBER Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2015-09-30
IRB Approval Number
15_129
IRB Name
Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (MIT COUHES)
IRB Approval Date
2015-07-01
IRB Approval Number
1506106206
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents