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Colleen Heflin

Colleen Heflin

Contact Information:


426 Eggers Hall

Office Hours:

By Appointment

Staff Support:

Michael Kuss


Colleen Heflin

Professor, Public Administration and International Affairs Department

Senior Research Associate, Center for Policy Research

Faculty Affiliate, Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion


Summer 2022 (7/5/22 - 7/8/22)
PAI 600 Public Affairs Colloquium, Tuesday through Friday, 9:00-2:00, Maxwell Auditorium


Highest degree earned

Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2002


Colleen Heflin is a professor of public administration and international affairs and a senior research associate in the Center for Policy Research. Heflin conducts policy-relevant research that sits at the boundaries of sociology, economics, public health, public administration and women’s studies.

The broad aim of her research is to understand the processes that create systems and patterns of social stratification and, more specifically, to examine welfare policy and the well-being of vulnerable populations, with a particular emphasis on the causes and consequences of material hardship. In a recent project, Heflin analyzed how specific shocks to family stability, such as unemployment or becoming disabled, lead to particular kinds of material hardship, such as medical or housing hardship.

Other recent projects have examined how the population using food stamps and unemployment insurance has changed with the Great Recession; how the experience of material hardship affects couples’ decisions to marry; how children’s participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) affects their households’ overall food insecurity; and how veterans’ well-being and social program participation compares to that of other groups.

She recently received funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin to explore how child support benefits interact with other social programs in Virginia with colleague Len Lopoo.

Heflin’s research has appeared in leading journals such as the American Sociological Review, Social Problems, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior and the Journal of Policy Analysis & Management. In 2014, her paper on community social capital was awarded the W. Richard Scott Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the American Sociological Association.

Heflin’s research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan in 2002.


Social policy, poverty policy, child and family policy

Research Grant Awards and Projects

Co-Principal Investigator. “Food insecurity and chronic diseases in low-income older Americans: The role of SNAP receipt in medication underuse,” with Irma Artega, Leslie Hodges and Chinedum Ojinnaka. Funded by University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. 2020-2022.           

Principle Investigator. "Changing patterns of eligibility and take up in SNAP and the role of out of pocket medical expenses (OOPM)." Funded by University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. 2020-2022.

Principle Investigator. "Hunger SNAPS: Food Insecurity Among Older Adults," collaboration with Madonna Harrington Meyer. Funded by Russell Sage Foundation. 2020-2022.

Principle Investigator. "Employment Instability As a Barrier to Childcare," with Co-PI Taryn Morrissey. Funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 2020-2021.

Principal Investigator. "Snap Uptake and School Readiness in Virginia," with Michah Rothbart. Funded by the Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. 2018-2020.

Principal Investigator. “Creating Evidence-Based Strategies to Address Administrative Churn in SNAP," with Len Lopoo, co-principal investigator, and in partnership with the Maxwell X Lab. Funded by the Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. 2018-2020.


Selected Papers

Peer Reviewed Papers

"Hypertension, Diabetes and Medication Adherence among the Older Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Population (SNAP)." Heflin, Colleen, Leslie Hodges, Chinnedum Ojinnaka, and Irma Arteaga. (In-press). Journal of Applied Gerontology.

“Below the tip of the iceberg: Examining early childhood participation in SNAP and TANF from birth to age six.” (In-press). Heflin, Colleen, Michah Rothbart, and Mattie Mackenzie Liu. Population Research and Policy Review

“Using Linked Administrative Data to Improve Child Well-being in the Rental Assistance Demonstration.” Aratani, Yumiko, Ariel Charney and Colleen Heflin. (In-press). Cityscape.

Exposure to Food Insecurity during Adolescence and Educational Attainment.” Heflin, Colleen, Rajeev Darolia and Sharon Kukla-Acevedo. 2020. Social Problems.  

Material Hardship, Perceived Stress, and Health in Early Adulthood.” Huang, Ying, Colleen Heflin and Asiya Validova. 2020.  Annals of Epidemiology. Sep 16:S1047-2797(20)30298-2.  Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32949721.

When States Align Social Welfare Programs: Considering the Child Support Income Exclusion for SNAP.” Heflin, Colleen, Leonard M. Lopoo, and Mattie Mackenzie-Liu. 2020. Social Science Quarterly.

The Material Hardships of Undocumented Immigrants in the United States: Evidence from SIPP 1996-2008.” Altman, Claire, Colleen Heflin, Chaeyung Jun, and James Bachmeier. 2020. Population Research and Policy Review

Testing Behavioral Interventions Designed to Improve On-Time SNAP Recertification.”  Lopoo, Leonard, Colleen Heflin, and Joe Boskovski. 2020. Journal of Behavioral Public Administration. Vol 3(2), pp. 1-8.

Material Hardship, Perceived Stress, and Health in Early Adulthood.” Huang, Ying, Colleen Heflin and Asiya Validova. 2020. Annals of Epidemiology. Sep 16:S1047-2797(20)30298-2. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32949721.

“U.S. Food and Nutrition Policy Across the Life Course.” Heflin, Colleen. (Forthcoming) in Current Issues in Aging and the Life Course: Public Policy. Routledge Press.

“The Material Hardships of Undocumented Immigrants in the United States: Evidence from SIPP 1996-2008.” Altman, Claire, Colleen Heflin, Chaeyung Jun, and James Bachmeier. (Forthcoming) in Population Research and Policy Review

“Exposure to Food Insecurity during Adolescence and Educational Attainment. ”Heflin, Colleen, Rajeev Darolia and Sharon Kukla-Acevedo. 2020. Social Problems.

"Childhood injuries and food stamp benefits: an examination of administrative data in one US state." Heflin, Colleen, Irma Arteaga, Jean Felix Ndashiyme, and Matthew Rabbitt. 2020.  BMC Pediatrics 20, 297.

Disability, Food Insecurity by Nativity, Citizenship, and Duration.” Altman, Claire, Colleen Heflin and Hannah Patnaik. 2020. SSM-Population Health. 10:100550.

“Administrative Churn in SNAP and Healthcare Utilization Patterns.” Heflin, Colleen, Leslie Hodges, and Chinedum Ojinnaka. 2020. Medical Care. 58:33-37. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001235.

“The Effects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on Mortality." Heflin, Colleen, Samuel Ingram and James P. Ziliak. 2019.  Health Affairs. 38:11, 1807-1815.  doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00405.

Experimental Evidence of a Work Support Strategy That Is Effective for At-Risk Families: The Building Nebraska Families Program.” Meckstroth, Alicia, Andrew Burwick, Colleen Heflin, Jonathan McCay, and Michael Ponza. 2019. Social Service Review. 93:3, 389-428.

Adolescent food insecurity and risky and risky behaviors and mental health during the transition to adulthood.” Heflin, Colleen, Sharon Kukla-Acevedo, and Rajeev Darolia. 2019. Children and Youth Services Review. Volume 105, October 2019, 104416. 

Design Flaws: Consequences of the Coverage Gap in Food Programs on Children at Kindergarten Entry.” Arteaga, Irma, Colleen Heflin, and Sarah Parsons. 2019. Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy. Volume 41, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 265–283.

Food Insecurity and Disability in the United States.” Heflin, Colleen, Claire Altman, and Laura Rodriguez. 2019. Disability and Health Journal.  Vol. 12(2): 220-226.

SNAP Benefits and Childhood Asthma.” Heflin, Colleen, Irma Arteaga, Leslie Hodges, Jean Felix Ndashiyme, and Matthew P Rabbitt. 2019. Social Science & Medicine. 220: 203-211.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Size and Timing and Hypertension-Related Emergency Department Claims Among Medicaid Enrollees.” Ojinnaka, Chinnedum and Colleen Heflin. 2018. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension 12(11) e27-e34. 

SNAP Benefits and Pregnancy-Related Emergency Room Visits.” Arteaga, Irma, Colleen Heflin, and Leslie Hodges. 2018.  Population Research and Policy Review. 37(6) 1031-1052. 

Emergency Food Assistance and the Great Recession.” Colleen Heflin and Ashley Price. 2019. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. 14:1-2, 225-239.

Household Food Insecurity and Early Childhood Health and Cognitive Development among Children of Immigrants.” Ying Huang, Stephanie Potochnick, and Colleen Heflin. 2018. Journal of Family Issues. Vol 39(6): 1465–1497. 

“The Role of Social Positioning in Observed Patterns of Material Hardship: New Evidence from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation.” Heflin, Colleen. 2017.  Social Problems 64:513-531. doi: 10.1093/socpro/spw041

“Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits and Emergency Room Visits for Hypoglycemia.” Heflin, Colleen, Leslie Hodges and Peter Mueser. 2016.  Public Health Nutrition, 1-8. doi:0.1017/S1368980016003153

“The Impact of Aging out of WIC on Food Security in Households with Children.” Irma Arteaga, Colleen Heflin and Sara Gable. 2016.  Children and Youth Services Review, 69, 82-96. doi:0.1016/j.childyouth.2016.07.015

“Family Instability and Material Hardship: Results from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation.”  Heflin, Colleen. 2016. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 37(3), 359-372. doi: 10.1007/s10834-016-9503-6.

“Unpacking an Anomaly: Analyzing the 2005-2012 Current Population Survey to Understand Why Many Emergency Food Assistance Users Report Being Food Secure.” Heflin, Colleen and Kate Olson. 2016. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 12(1): 64-76. doi: 10.1080/19320248.2016.1157548

“The Great Recession and SNAP Caseloads: A Tale of Two States.” Edwards, Mark, Colleen Heflin, Peter Mueser, Sue Porter and Bruce Weber. 2016.  Journal of Poverty, 20:3, 261-277, doi: 10.1080/10875549.2015.1094770

"Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Use among Active-Duty Military Personnel, Veterans, and Reservists." London, Andrew and Colleen Heflin. 2015. Population Research and Policy Review, 34(6): 805-826.

The Use of VA Disability Benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance among Working-Aged Veterans.” Wilmoth, Janet, Andrew London and Colleen Heflin. 2015. Disability and Health Journal, 8: 388-396.

“Economic Well-Being among Older-Adult Households: Variation by Veteran and Disability Status.”  Wilmoth, Janet, Andrew London and Colleen Heflin. 2015. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 58(4): 399-419. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2015.1019657

“Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Food Insufficiency: Evidence from a Statewide Probability Sample.” Yunju, Nam, Jin Huang, Colleen Heflin and Michael Sherraden. 2015. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 6(2): 201-228. 

“The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Food Insecurity.” Heflin, Colleen, Irma Arteaga, and Sara Gable. 2015.  Social Services Review, 89(1): 77-98.