Project: WIC General Analysis Project (GAP)
Award Year: 1998
Amount of award, fiscal 1998: $560,000.00
Institution: Food and Nutrition Service, USDA
Principal Investigator: Jay Hirschman
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: This work conducts research and analysis of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to support program and policy decisions including research on:
  • estimates of WIC eligibility;
  • changes in WIC participant characteristics over time; and
  • nutrient, health risk, and demographic characteristics of WIC participants and eligible nonparticipants.

WIC is a grant program that provides supplemental foods, nutrition education, and health care referrals to participants. It is targeted to high-risk low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age five.

In 1984 and biennially since 1988, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted studies of WIC participant and program characteristics. These studies provide descriptive statistics on all categories of WIC participants, including children. The studies provide information on a near census of WIC enrollees, but only for a limited set of variables that WIC State agencies routinely collect and maintain in their management information systems. This set of variables is known as the WIC Minimum Data Set. The program characteristics studies (PC) can answer a variety of descriptive questions about WIC participants at the national, State, and local levels. The USDA is interested in conducting special studies utilizing the data on American Indians, migrants, teenage mothers, overweight children and other policy-relevant subgroups. The Food and Nutrition Service prepared reports which include a profile of the sociodemographic characteristics, risk profiles, and health care usage patterns. The data used for these reports primarily came from existing data in the biennial participant characteristics surveys, with a special focus on 1996. The completion date for this project was March 31, 1999.

Another project looks at the fastest growing segment of the WIC population, children 1-4 years of age. In fiscal 1997, WIC served an average monthly participation of 7.4 million individuals, including 3.8 million children ages 1 to 4 years of age. Because large-scale nationally representative studies of WIC's impact are not feasible at this time, the Food and Nutrition Service intends to expand the body of research which describes the experiences of WIC and non-WIC children. The report included descriptive information obtained from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). The completion date for this project was June 1, 1999.

The third project deals with estimating funding levels. WIC is a discretionary program, in the appropriations process, and thus participation is limited by annual funding levels. To assist in determining appropriate funding levels, policymakers have long been interested in estimates of the number of eligible persons, as well as estimates of the number of persons who are likely to participate if funds were available. This project reviewed and summarized the approaches which have been taken by the USDA and others to estimate eligible persons for and likely to participate in the WIC program, identify key data and analytical issues related to WIC eligible estimation, and point out issues for further review. The completion date was February 1999.

A final report Estimating the Number of People Eligible for WIC and the Full-Funding Participation Rate: A Review of the Issues was completed February 1999. Draft reports on the other two topics have been prepared and are being revised. The Economic Research Service serves on technical review panels, reviews project and analysis plans, reviews draft and final deliverables for approval and acceptance, and reviews for clearance all final reports before Departmental release. The Economic Research Service provided the Food and Nutrition Service $560,000 in fiscal 1998, inclusive of $60,000 for dissemination of information.

Topic: WIC