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Does WIC work? The effects of WIC on pregnancy and birth outcomes

Author

Listed:
  • Marianne P. Bitler

    (RAND Corporation)

  • Janet Currie

    (UCLA)

Abstract

Support for WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, is based on the belief that “WIC works.” This consensus has lately been questioned by researchers who point out that most WIC research fails to properly control for selection into the program. This paper evaluates the selection problem using rich data from the national Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System. We show that relative to Medicaid mothers, all of whom are eligible for WIC, WIC participants are negatively selected on a wide array of observable dimensions, and yet WIC participation is associated with improved birth outcomes, even after controlling for observables and for a full set of state-year interactions intended to capture unobservables that vary at the state-year level. The positive impacts of WIC are larger among subsets of even more disadvantaged women, such as those who received public assistance last year, single high school dropouts, and teen mothers. © 2005 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:24:y:2005:i:1:p:73-91
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20070
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kowaleski-Jones, L. & Duncan, G.J., 2002. "Effects of participation in the WIC program on birthweight: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 92(5), pages 799-804.
    2. Janet Currie, 2003. "US Food and Nutrition Programs," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 199-290, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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