The Impact of Childhood Nutrition Assistance on Child Health and Well-Being: Lessons From WIC

Project Summary

The project team is developing plausible estimates of the causal effects of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on infant and child outcomes. The investigators focus on the effects of WIC on children after they are born; spillover effects from targeted children to other family members who are not directly eligible for the programs; and on the effects of changes to the composition of the WIC food package and delivery of program benefits (e.g., changes from an identifiable voucher to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card).

Research Question(s)

  • What are the effects of aging out of the 6-11 month old infant WIC package and into the child package at age 1 year?
  • What is the effect of aging out of WIC entirely at age 5 years?
  • What are the spillover effects on household members when a child in the household ages out of WIC at age 5 years?


  • Inform policy decisions regarding WIC by providing a broader range of effects WIC may have on health, well-being, and nutrition for children and families.


Outcome Primary or Exploratory
RD Design
Primary or Exploratory
DD Design
Data Set
WIC Participation Primary Primary NHANES Questionnaire
Foods purchased in WIC Basket Primary Primary Nielsen HomeScan
Foods purchased, substitutes/complements to WIC basket Primary Primary Nielsen HomeScan
Self-reported consumption, in WIC basket Primary Primary NHANES Dietary Interview
Self-reported consumption, subsitutes/complements to WIC basket Primary Primary NHANES Dietary Interview
Self-reported nutrient intake, WIC targeted (e.g., iron) Primary Primary NHANES Dietary Interview
Self-reported nutrient intake, Not targeted pre-2009 package change (e.g., fiber) Exploratory Primary NHANES Dietary Interview
Food Insecurity Primary Primary NHANES Questionnaire
Laboratory blood tests, adjusts quickly (e.g., ferritin) Primary Primary NHANES Laboratory
Laboratory blood tests, adjusts slowly (e.g., vitamins A, D) Exploratory Primary NHANES Laboratory
Hospital visit, type/diagnoses Exploratory Exploratory HCUP
Body measures (weight, BMI) Exploratory Exploratory NHANES Examination


The investigators are using a regression discontinuity (RD) strategy to compare outcomes for children at ages just younger than the sharp changes in the program benefits and eligibility to those for children just older than the relevant age thresholds, considering children near ages 1 and 5 as the two relevant thresholds. A differences-in-differences (DD) design is used estimate the effect of change to the revised WIC package and the effect of the change to EBT cards from vouchers.

Child eating fruits and vegetables
Grantee and Partner organizations

University of California, Davis
Princeton University Center for Health and Well Being
University of California, Berkeley
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Cornell University

Grant status
Principal investigators
Marianne Bitler, PhD
Janet Currie, PhD
Start date
Award amount
36 months

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