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Bidding for WIC infant formula contracts: Do non-WIC customers subsidize WIC customers?

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  • Davis, David E.

Abstract

Although the WIC food assistance program purchases over one-half of all US infant formula, I find the program has little impact on the prices paid by non-WIC customers. I estimate infant-formula marginal cost and find that it is low compared to price, implying large price-cost markups. But, the WIC program is not to blame. Instead large price-cost markups are likely due to customer’s price insensitivity. WIC’s impact on non-WIC customers comes through an increase in sales owing to a WIC “spill-over” effect. The WIC approved brand attains a prominence in the market that makes it a natural choice for non-WIC customers, which makes attaining WIC approval valuable to firms. Firms bid with rebates to attain exclusive WIC approved status which results in significant reductions in the cost of infant formula to the US government.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in its series 2011 Annual Meeting, July 24-26, 2011, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with number 102457.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea11:102457

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Keywords: Price cost margins; WIC; Oligopoly; Food Assistance; Infant Formula; auctions; contracts; Consumer/Household Economics; Health Economics and Policy; Industrial Organization; L11; L113; I18; D12;

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  1. Oliveira, Victor & Davis, David E., 2006. "Recent Trends and Economic Issues in the WIC Infant Formula Rebate Program," Economic Research Report 7228, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  2. Oliveira, Victor & Prell, Mark A. & Smallwood, David M. & Frazao, Elizabeth, 2004. "Wic And The Retail Price Of Infant Formula," Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Reports 33873, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  3. Davis, David E. & Leibtag, Ephraim S., 2005. "Interstate Variation In Wic Food Package Costs: The Role Of Food Prices, Caseload Composition, And Cost-Containment Practices," Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Reports 33811, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  4. John Crespi & Richard Sexton, 2005. "A Multinomial Logit Framework to Estimate Bid Shading in Procurement Auctions: Application to Cattle Sales in the Texas Panhandle," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 253-278, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Davis, David E., 2011. "Buyer Alliances as Countervailing Power in WIC Infant-Formula Auctions," SDSU Working Papers in Progress 12011, South Dakota State University, Department of Economics.
  2. Huang, Rui & Perloff, Jeffrey M., 2007. "WIC Contract Spillover Effects," 2007 Annual Meeting, July 29-August 1, 2007, Portland, Oregon TN 9773, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  3. Oliveira, Victor & Frazao, Elizabeth & Smallwood, David, 2013. "Trends in Infant Formula Rebate Contracts: Implications for the WIC Program," Economic Information Bulletin 161130, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  4. Saitone, Tina L. & Sexton, Richard J. & Volpe, Richard J., III, 2012. "Markups and Promotional Patterns of California WIC-Authorized Foods," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124927, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  5. McLaughlin, Patrick W. & Saitone, Tina L. & Sexton, Richard J., 2013. "Non-Price Competition and the California WIC Program," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150783, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

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