Case Study

Managing Food Stamps Efficiently

In Collaboration With:

MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife’s long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Since its founding through the end of 2016, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $744 million in grants and $70 million in program-related investments to organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities. Today, the Foundation is dedicated to advancing financial inclusion, committing $200 million to help build a secure future for individuals and communities around the world. To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit


The MetLife Foundation believes that everyone should have access to the right financial tools and services to build a better tomorrow. This belief is in part why the foundation seeks to better understand how individuals in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can best utilize their resources.

SNAP helps low-income families by giving them a monthly food allowance of $250 on average per household for food purchases (also known as food stamps). The allocation of funds on a monthly basis can have negative consequences on behavior as it can lead to overspending. Take the case of Peru for example. There was a 70% increase in the purchase of alcohol and sweets when government assistance moved from twice a month to monthly payments.


The Center for Advanced Hindsight’s Common Cents Lab partnered with Propel, a fin-tech startup in New York with a mobile app that allows SNAP recipients to check their balance and transaction history. In our control condition, we showed SNAP recipients their monthly SNAP balance. In our experimental condition, we showed SNAP recipients the same information, but presented as a weekly budget. This anchored them to a weekly spendable amount.


In the control condition, families spent 80% of their balance after nine days, while families in the experiment condition reached 80% of their balance after 11 days. For a family depending on SNAP to put food on the table, this can equal about six extra meals per month, just from a simple intervention of changing the SNAP balance display.

Value for Sponsor

Based on the success of our initial research, this intervention is being rolled out to a larger consumer base. There is great potential for this research to inform policymaking.

About the Common Cents Lab™

This project was made possible through the Common Cents Lab™ initiative, supported by MetLife Foundation. Through the Common Cents Lab, our world-class behavioral researchers design and test solutions to increase the financial well-being for low- to moderate- income people living in the United States.

Common Cents Lab™ is supported by MetLife Foundation.

MetLife Foundation believes that everyone should have access to the right financial tools and services to build a better tomorrow. The Foundation’s mission of financial inclusion focuses on increasing low-income families’ readiness, willingness and ability to engage with the financial sector, in advancing the delivery of high-quality financial products and services, and in investing in research and learning with the view of benefiting those who need it most.