SNAP Benefits Reduce Future Criminal Convictions, According to New Empirical Research

Child benefits are in the news, specifically the Child Tax Credit and its future in the Build Back Better plan. Empirical research on welfare benefits can help us understand just what is at stake for the children affected by welfare policies.

A new paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources, links the availability of SNAP benefits during childhood to future criminal convictions[1]. The result may be unsurprising – more SNAP benefits results in less criminal convictions – but the magnitude of the results and the racial characteristics are extremely interesting.

The authors observed that when SNAP benefits were being rolled out in North Carolina, some places were getting them sooner than others in a staggered, predictable way. This means that some kids, for no reason other than the randomness of the programming, got more benefits than others. This allowed the researchers to observe just how beneficial SNAP is to kids, and whether it affects their future likelihood of criminal convictions.

The magnitude of the results is a bit startling: “Each additional year of FSP availability in early childhood reduces the likelihood of a criminal conviction in young adulthood by 2.5 percent.”[2] One might think that the racial disproportionality of both poverty and incarceration is at play here, and the authors considered this explanation. The percent decrease in criminal convictions is even larger for non-whites. The authors attribute this larger effect to non-white families’ higher participation in the food stamps program.

These results are historical: Food stamps were rolled out in North Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s, but the lessons remain relevant. Children who are well-fed and provided for are less likely to fall into the pipeline to prison. It’s common sense, which these authors have backed up with robust empirical evidence.

Hopefully, as the debates around the Build Back Better bill and child benefits rage on, legislators will consider evidence like this. It may be a way to argue that child benefits are actually the policy of law and order! After all, who doesn’t want healthier kids and less crime?


[1] Here is a link to the author’s webpage, where this paper and others of interest to Children and the Law Blog readers may be found

[2] Barr, Andrew, and Alexander Smith, Fighting Crime in the Cradle: The Effects of Early Childhood Access to Nutritional Assistance, 2020 (working paper)

Holiday Gift Drive for Harris County Juvenile Facilities

Roughly 200 children will spend this holiday season in juvenile facilities across Houston. Law students at the University of Houston Law Center are inviting you to make their time a little brighter by helping them reach their fundraising goal and by directly purchasing items off their Wishlist. Gifts will be distributed at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center, Leadership Academy, and Youth Village.

Items to be purchased include:

  • Snacks
  • Journals
  • Toiletries
  • Candy
  • Games
  • And more!

Please visit https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1BNR8TQGKYDNM?ref_=wl_share to purchase directly from the Wishlist or visit https://gofund.me/bf274ce6 to make a contribution towards the purchase of gifts. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 10, 2022.

We appreciate your generosity!

$127M Lawsuit Against a Kent County Children’s Hospital and Its Workers

Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescence is being sued for physical and sexual abuse of their child patients. Law firm Breit Cantor filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court on October 20, 2020, against Cumberland and its parent company Universal Health Services (UHS), its former Medical Director Dr. Daniel Davidow, and Herschel “Mickey” Harden, a former psychotherapist who was indicted in February for sexually abusing a former female client.

The allegations in the lawsuit go as far back as 2008. As per a report by CBS News 6, Dr. Davidow took femoral pulses of his female clients and would “place his hand beneath the minor patient’s undergarments and sexually abuse the minor patient by intentionally touching the minor patient’s intimate body parts.”[1] Additionally, Dr. Davidow “wasn’t taking the femoral pulse of patients when their parents were in the room, he was only taking the femoral pulse of patients when they were alone when they didn’t have somebody there to speak for them and when they are the most vulnerable.”[2] Patients as young as 12 years old have made allegations of sexual abuse by the doctor.

The complaint filed alleges some of the following:

  1. UHS, Cumberland, Davidow, and Harden constantly pressured staff to change the primary diagnosis of patients, chart aggressive or sexually aggressive precautions in the patients’ records, and otherwise made fraudulent and materially false statements in medical records to justify longer stays.
  2. If a patient’s parent or guardian would not consent to admission or questioned changes to the medical records, the staff at Cumberland Hospital would threaten to call the police and the Virginia Department of Child Protective Services to force the patients’ parents to admit their child to Cumberland Hospital and silence them from making reports or question decisions made by Cumberland, UHS, Davidow, and Harden.
  3. Contrary to Cumberland’s “Seclusion and Restraint Philosophy and Family Notification,” UHS, Cumberland, Davidow, and Haden frequently used physical restraints and seclusion to coerce, discipline, and retaliate against patients.

Davidow since then has had his medical license revoked. The hospital is also alleged to have been playing a money game, by moving clients around the hospital to different beds in order to increase profits. This is being done even though Cumberland does not have adequate staff, proper licenses, and resources to take care of the children. The allegations against Davidow were brought up in a group session led by an intern. As stated by an alleged victim per CBS 6 News “He had me slide down my pants and he grabbed my underwear and pulled them down.”[3] Additionally, the alleged victim stated, “I was obviously very tense because it was a very uncomfortable situation and he was like just relax, just relax and he still did not have gloves on.”[4]

The complaint can be found here.

For more information see the CBS News 6 press release.

[1] Laura French, $127M lawsuit filed against doctors, Cumberland Hospital for Children for alleged sexual abuse, CBS News 6, (Oct. 21, 2020, 6:09 PM), https://www.wtvr.com/news/problem-solvers/problem-solvers-investigations/127m-lawsuit-filed-against-doctors-childrens-hospital-for-alleged-sexual-abuse.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.