Spatial Dynamics of Benefit Spending following the Philadelphia Sugary Drink Tax: A Synthetic Controls Evaluation

The link for the online version will be sent the day before the event.

The City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania implemented an excise tax on sugar and artificially-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in January 2017. Several studies have examined the tax’s impact on purchasing and consumption of SSBs, with some evidence of tax avoidance via cross-border shopping, though none have focused on the tax’s effect on lower-income shoppers. This study combines and leverages large administrative datasets from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), and applies a synthetic control approach to understand tax effects on shopping in Philadelphia and its neighboring municipalities. Significant changes are documented in overall SNAP spending and participation-adjusted SNAP spending outcomes, indicating broader shopping changes beyond taxed goods alone. This study also highlights the potential for using SNAP data to explore place-based policy effects on food shopping and benefit spending.