Research Paper

Health Impacts of WIC: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis
Hilary Hoynes (Affiliate in Economics) with graduate researcher Lisa Schulkind (Economics)

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional health program is a major staple of the non-cash safety net. Investigators will examine the impacts of WIC participation on child health outcomes, applying regression discontinuity methods that use the age of the child as a proxy for WIC participation.


Survey and administrative data shows that WIC participation declines sharply at age 5 (when eligibility ends) and the changes in benefits at 1 year also lead to discrete reductions in participation. Researchers use these discrete changes in participation at ages 1 and 5 to examine the impacts of WIC on child health outcomes. In particular, using age of the child as a proxy for WIC participation, researchers can examine differences in child health for groups just above and just below these age cutoffs. Investigators use data from NHANES and detailed hospital discharge data to examine impacts on food consumption, nutritional biomarkers, and health conditions indicating poor nutrition (failure to thrive, feeding problem, dehydration, and iron deficiency).