Survey of Income and Program Participation data are used to investigate the relationship between parenting and children’s very low food security. Parenting is characterized along five domains (emotional outlook, support, education desires, activities with the child excluding meals, and television viewing rules). Food security definitions are obtained from questions in a special SIPP module that are based on the USDA’s core food security module. Graphical evidence indicates that parenting patterns differ distinctly for households experiencing various levels of food insecurity. Descriptive regression evidence suggests that some of the parenting attributes are significantly associated with children’s food insecurity, even controlling for a wide variety of background characteristics. Finally, an event-study framework is used to identify causal effects of parenting on food security outcomes. The overall findings are twofold. First, mothers in food-insecure households have a worse outlook on their parental role and the parent-child relationship. However, the evidence indicates that this is likely either reverse-caused (e.g., maternal depression leads to low family resources) or is a response to the stress of being in a low-resource environment. Second, there is some evidence against rejecting the hypothesis that more supportive (nurturing) parental behavior is protective for children in households experiencing a job layoff of an adult member. This is consistent with supportive parenting playing a causal role in children’s very low food security.

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date


Discussion Paper Number

DP 2013-04