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Can targeted transfers improve birth outcomes?

Author

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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 2g, or by 7g among infants born to mothers with low education levels. These translate into estimated birth weight increases among participating mothers of approximately 18 to 29g. 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?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 813-827.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:7:p:813-827
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2010.12.006
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Hope Corman & Dhaval M. Dave & Nancy E. Reichman, 2017. "Evolution of the Infant Health Production Function," NBER Working Papers 24131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2017. "Social Insurance and Health," IZA Discussion Papers 10918, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. 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.

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