The Effects of WIC on Pregnancy, Birth, and Infant Health Outcomes

Marianne Bitler, RAND
Janet Currie, University of California at Los Angeles

The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC program is a federally-funded, state-run program to provide direct nutritional supplements and nutritional advice to pregnant women, postpartum women, infants, and children who are nutritionally at-risk and low-income. Numerous studies have concluded via ordinary least squares, ANOVA, two-stage least squares, and other selectivity-corrected analysis that the WIC program is beneficial for infants because it reduces infant mortality, cuts incidence of low birthweight, and increases caloric and micronutrient intake. However, these studies have been criticized for failing to control adequately for unobserved characteristics of mothers that might explain both WIC participation and better birth outcomes. Also, few studies have used national samples. This paper uses both state variation in WIC generosity and federal standardization of WIC program rules in 1998 as sources of variation with which to examine the effect of WIC on birth outcomes.

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