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WIC Contract Spillover Effects

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  • Rui Huang

    ()
    (University of Connecticut)

  • Jeffrey M. Perloff

    ()
    (University of California, Berkeley)

Abstract

The three major infant formula manufacturers bid state by state to be the exclusive provider to poor families under the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, and all three compete for non-WIC customers at grocery stores. Previous studies explained the low WIC prices and the higher retail prices as the result of price discrimination. We propose an alternative spillover model. Grocery stores, which supply both WIC participants and others, provide relatively large amounts of shelf space to the firm that wins the state-level WIC contract. Non-WIC customers, inferring from the large shelf space that the WIC brand is superior, are more likely to buy it. Because the contract winner benefits from a spillover effect in the lucrative non-WIC retail market, firms are willing to bid more aggressively for WIC contracts than in a price discrimination model. The spillover model is more consistent with the data than is the price discrimination model. We show that the retail price markup of the firm that wins the state WIC contract does not change when the contract is awarded, but that its shelf space increases in excess of the share of WIC customers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy in its series Food Marketing Policy Center Research Reports with number 118.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zwi:fpcrep:118

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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David E. Davis, 2009. "Bidding for WIC infant formula contracts: Do non-WIC customers subsidize WIC customers?," SDSU Working Papers in Progress 52009, South Dakota State University, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2011.
  3. Oliveira, Victor & Prell, Mark A., 2004. "Sharing the Economic Burden: Who Pays for WIC's Infant Formula?," Amber Waves, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September.
  4. Amrouche, Nawel & Zaccour, Georges, 2007. "Shelf-space allocation of national and private brands," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 180(2), pages 648-663, July.
  5. Oliveira, Victor & Frazao, Elizabeth & Smallwood, David M., 2011. "The Infant Formula Market: Consequences of a Change in the WIC Contract Brand," Economic Research Report 118020, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  6. 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.
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