Research has shown that the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a successful and cost-effective program. Numerous studies find that WIC participation improves pre- and postnatal health outcomes; families’ overall nutrition; access to prenatal care, health care for children, and immunizations; and children’s cognitive development and academic achievement. Despite these important benefits, author Kristin Smith--using data from the 2015 Current Population Survey---reports that fewer than half of WIC income-eligible families with young children received WIC nutrition benefits in 2014. Among eligible families, receipt of WIC benefits was more likely among families in which the head of household was poorer, less educated, non-white, unmarried, or unemployed. About half of eligible families living at less than 50 percent of the poverty line and one-third living between 100 percent and 185 percent of poverty received WIC benefits. Participation in WIC was greater in rural than urban areas, and rural foreign-born families reported higher rates of WIC receipt than their urban counterparts. Smith concludes that WIC is an important safety net program that successfully provides nutritious foods, nutrition counseling, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals, and it has a proven record of improving health outcomes, cognitive development, and educational attainment for children. Expanding the reach of WIC to all eligible families could benefit families struggling to make ends meet.

Publication Date

Summer 7-20-2016


National Issue Brief No. 102


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2016. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.

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