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Reassessing the WIC Effect: Evidence from the Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System

  • Andrew D. Racine
  • Cristina Yunzal-Butler
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    Recent analyses differ on how effective the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is at improving infant health. We use data from nine states that participate in the Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System to address limitations in previous work. With information on the mother's timing of WIC enrollment, we test whether greater exposure to WIC is associated with less smoking, improved weight gain during pregnancy, better birth outcomes, and greater likelihood of breastfeeding. Our results suggest that much of the often-reported association between WIC and lower rates of preterm birth is likely spurious, the result of gestational age bias. We find modest effects of WIC on fetal growth, inconsistent associations between WIC and smoking, limited associations with gestational weight gain, and some relationship with breast feeding. A WIC effect exists, but on fewer margins and with less impact than has been claimed by policy analysts and advocates.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13441.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13441.

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    Date of creation: Sep 2007
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    Publication status: published as Reassessing the WIC effect: Evidence from the Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System Journal of Policy Analysis and Management Volume 27, Issue 2, Spring 2008, Pages: 277–303, Ted Joyce, Andrew Racine and Cristina Yunzal-Butler Article first published online : 13 MAR 2008, DOI: 10.1002/pam.20325
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13441
    Note: CH HE
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Jeffrey E. Harris, 1982. "Prenatal Medical Care and Infant Mortality," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 13-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083, August.
    3. M. H. Khalil Timamy, 2005. "Debate," Review of African Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(104-105), pages 383-393, June.
    4. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 1864, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Ted Joyce & Diane Gibson & Silvie Colman, 2004. "The Changing Association Between Prenatal Participation in WIC and Birth Outcomes in New York City," NBER Working Papers 10796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Guido W. Imbens, 2004. "Nonparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Under Exogeneity: A Review," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 4-29, February.
    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. Barbara Devaney & Linda Bilheimer & Jennifer Schore, 1992. "Medicaid costs and birth outcomes: The effects of prenatal WIC participation and the use of prenatal care," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(4), pages 573-592.
    9. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," Open Access publications 10197/316, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    10. 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.
    11. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," Working Papers 10197/317, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
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