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Effects of Federal Nutrition Program on Birth Outcomes

  • Yunwei Gai


  • Li Feng


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Using a nationally representative sample of the birth cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we examine the impact on birth outcomes of the largest federal nutrition program in the United States: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). By identifying a set of strong and valid instrumental variables for WIC participation, we are able to address the fundamental problem in the literature—selection bias. Similar to recent studies, we find that WIC does not affect average birth weight and average gestational week after correcting for selection bias using the instrumental variable method. However, WIC participation has significantly reduced the probability of very premature birth and (very) low birth weight after controlling selection bias by bivariate probit models. Our results indicate that rather than affecting the average outcomes, WIC is more effective for births that are at high risk. The potential benefits of WIC program can be realized by increasing its focus on more disadvantaged mothers. Copyright International Atlantic Economic Society 2012

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Article provided by Springer & International Atlantic Economic Society in its journal Atlantic Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 40 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 61-83

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Handle: RePEc:kap:atlecj:v:40:y:2012:i:1:p:61-83
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  1. McDonald, Thomas P. & Coburn, Andrew F., 1988. "Predictors of prenatal care utilization," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 167-172, January.
  2. Figlio, David & Hamersma, Sarah & Roth, Jeffrey, 2009. "Does prenatal WIC participation improve birth outcomes? New evidence from Florida," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 235-245, February.
  3. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
  4. Marianne P. Bitler & Janet Currie, 2005. "Does WIC work? The effects of WIC on pregnancy and birth outcomes," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(1), pages 73-91.
  5. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1994. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," NBER Technical Working Papers 0151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Ted Joyce & Andrew Racine & Cristina Yunzal-Butler, 2008. "Reassessing the WIC effect: Evidence from the Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 277-303.
  7. Ted Joyce & Diane Gibson & Silvie Colman, 2005. "The changing association between prenatal participation in WIC and birth outcomes in New York City," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 661-685.
  8. Currie, J. & Cole, N., 1992. "Welfare and Child Health: the Link Between AFDC Participation and Birth Weight," Working papers 92-9, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083.
  10. Morris, Stephen, 2007. "The impact of obesity on employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 413-433, June.
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