Welfare Programs and Infant Mortality in the United States: 1995

Theodore Fuller, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The Infant Mortality Rate in the United States is relatively high, compared to rates in many other industrialized countries. This could be due to weaknesses in our social welfare system. Although national in scope, there are actually 51 different welfare programs in the U.S., due to state variations in the benefit level and the percent of the poverty population enrolled in the various programs ("coverage rate"). Using multi-level analysis, this paper examines the effect of four key components of the U.S. welfare system (AFDC, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and WIC) on the risk of infant mortality. I hypothesize that, after controlling for a set of standard demographic variables, the risk of infant mortality is lower in states with more generous welfare programs, as measured by the benefit level and coverage rate of these four welfare programs. Further, the effect of welfare program variables is hypothesized to be greater for those infants already "at risk" of death during infancy.

Presented in Session 147: Infant and Child Health in the U.S.: Effects of Income and Social Programs