Does Prenatal WIC Participation Improve Child Outcomes?

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2020

Publication Title

American Journal of Health Economics


A large body of literature documents positive effects of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on birth outcomes, and separately connects health at birth and future outcomes. But little research investigates the link between prenatal WIC participation and childhood outcomes. We explore this question using a unique data set from South Carolina that links administrative birth, Medicaid, and education records. We find that relative to their siblings, prenatal WIC participants have a lower incidence of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and other common childhood mental health conditions and a lower incidence of grade repetition. These findings demonstrate that a “WIC start” results in persistent improvements in child outcomes across a range of domains.