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Can targeted transfers improve birth outcomes?: Evidence from the introduction of the WIC program

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  • Hoynes, Hilary
  • Page, Marianne
  • Stevens, Ann Huff

Abstract

The goal of federal food and nutrition programs in the United States is to improve the nutritional well-being and health of low income families. A large body of literature evaluates the extent to which the Supplemental Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) has accomplished this goal, but most studies have been based on research designs that compare program participants to non-participants. If selection into these programs is non-random then such comparisons will lead to biased estimates of the program's true effects. In this study we use the rollout of the WIC program across counties to estimate the impact of the program on infant health. We find that the implementation of WIC led to an increase in average birth weight and a decrease in the fraction of births that are classified as low birth weight. We find no evidence that these estimates are driven by changes in fertility or selection into live births. Our preferred estimates suggest that WIC initiation raised average birth weight by 2Â g, or by 7Â g among infants born to mothers with low education levels. These translate into estimated birth weight increases among participating mothers of approximately 18 to 29Â g. Estimated treatments on the treated impacts among infants born to participating mothers with low education are of similar magnitude.

Suggested Citation

  • Hoynes, Hilary & Page, Marianne & Stevens, Ann Huff, 2011. "Can targeted transfers improve birth outcomes?: Evidence from the introduction of the WIC program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 813-827, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:7-8:p:813-827
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Elder, Todd E. & Goddeeris, John H. & Haider, Steven J., 2016. "Racial and ethnic infant mortality gaps and the role of socio-economic status," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 42-54.
    2. Dora L. Costa, 2015. "Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(3), pages 503-570, September.
    3. Schultz-Nielsen, Marie Louise & Tekin, Erdal & Greve, Jane, 2016. "Labor market effects of intrauterine exposure to nutritional deficiency: Evidence from administrative data on Muslim immigrants in Denmark," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 196-209.
    4. Eli Berman & Mitch Downey & Joseph Felter, 2016. "Expanding Governance as Development: Evidence on Child Nutrition in the Philippines," NBER Working Papers 21849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Sonchak, Lyudmyla, 2015. "Medicaid reimbursement, prenatal care and infant health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 10-24.
    6. Owen O'Donnell & Eddy Van Doorslaer & Tom Van Ourti, 2013. "Health and Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-170/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    7. Haeck, Catherine & Lefebvre, Pierre, 2016. "A simple recipe: The effect of a prenatal nutrition program on child health at birth," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 77-89.
    8. Lindo, Jason M., 2011. "Parental job loss and infant health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 869-879.
    9. Jennifer Trudeau & Karen Smith Conway & Andrea Kutinova Menclova, 2016. "Soaking Up the Sun: The Role of Sunshine in the Production of Infant Health," American Journal of Health Economics, MIT Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-40, January.
    10. Martha J. Bailey & Andrew Goodman-Bacon, 2015. "The War on Poverty's Experiment in Public Medicine: Community Health Centers and the Mortality of Older Americans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1067-1104, March.
    11. Adrienne M. Lucas & Nicholas L. Wilson, 2017. "Can at Scale Drug Provision Improve the Health of the Targeted in Sub-Saharan Africa?," NBER Working Papers 23403, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Kose, Esra & Kuka, Elira & Shenhav, Na'ama, 2016. "Women's Enfranchisement and Children's Education: The Long-Run Impact of the U.S. Suffrage Movement," IZA Discussion Papers 10148, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Lídia Farré, 2016. "New evidence on the healthy immigrant effect," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(2), pages 365-394, April.
    14. Silvia Avram & Eva Militaru, 2016. "Interactions Between Policy Effects, Population Characteristics and the Tax-Benefit System: An Illustration Using Child Poverty and Child Related Policies in Romania and the Czech Republic," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 1365-1385, September.
    15. Rucker C. Johnson & C. Kirabo Jackson, 2017. "Reducing Inequality Through Dynamic Complementarity: Evidence from Head Start and Public School Spending," NBER Working Papers 23489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Rossin-Slater, Maya, 2013. "WIC in your neighborhood: New evidence on the impacts of geographic access to clinics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 51-69.
    17. Lisa Schulkind, 2013. "Getting a Sporting Chance: Title IX and the Intergenerational Transmission of Health," Working Papers 1305, Trinity College, Department of Economics.

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