Effects of Federal Nutrition Program on Birth Outcomes

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the managing editor Dr. John M. Virgo and anonymous referees for constructive suggestions. We would also like to thank Jill C. McCarroll from the National Center for Education Statistics for her help on answering questions on ECLS-B and Neil Russell of the same agency for reviewing our manuscript for disclosure. We thank conference participants at the Southern Economic Association Meeting for helpful comments. We are grateful to the National Center for Education Statistics for providing the restricted-use data for this analysis. All opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Center for Education Statistics.

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Correspondence to Yunwei Gai.

Appendices

 

Appendix 1: More Outputs for Table 3 (Including Observations from California)

 

Appendix 2: Results from the Multiprobit Models on Birth Weight

 

Appendix 3: Results from the Multiprobit Models on Gestation Weeks

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Gai, Y., Feng, L. Effects of Federal Nutrition Program on Birth Outcomes. Atl Econ J 40, 61–83 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11293-011-9294-y

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Keywords

  • Nutrition
  • Access to care
  • Birth outcomes
  • Women, infants and children (WIC) program
  • Bivariate probit model (BVP)

JEL

  • I12
  • I18