The WIC Program

For the most up-to-date references related to the WIC Program, see the Food and Nutrition Assistance Research Reports Database.

ERS Reports

Cost Containment and Participant Access in USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Evidence from the Greater Los Angeles, CA, Area

This report provides an in-depth look at the tradeoff between participant access and program costs in USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), synthesizing several studies of WIC in Greater Los Angeles, CA, from 2009 to 2013 (January 2021).

The Food Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report

In this report, ERS researchers use preliminary data from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service to examine trends in U.S. food and nutrition assistance programs, including WIC, through fiscal year 2019 (October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019) (July 2020).

USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): A New Look at Key Questions 10 Years After USDA Added Whole-Grain Bread to WIC Food Packages in 2009

This study uses a combination of store- and household-level purchase data to revisit key questions and help policymakers consider the latest recommendations to adjust WIC food packages. The study focuses on bread as a case study of the whole-grain products that WIC participants may buy with their benefits (August 2019).

The Economic Impacts of Breastfeeding: A Focus on USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Breastfeeding rates among WIC participants are lower than the U.S. average. This study estimates the effects that increased breastfeeding rates in WIC would have on the number of WIC participants, costs to WIC and Medicaid, and health-related costs that accrue to WIC households or their health insurance providers (February 2019).

Price Variability Across Food Product and Vendor Type in Food Benefit Redemptions Under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

This report examines variability in WIC food transaction prices across store formats and WIC State agencies in the Midwest, Western, Southwest, and Mountain Plains using purchase-level data on 2014 Electronic Benefit Transfer transactions (July 2018).

WIC Household Food Purchases Using WIC Benefits or Paying Out of Pocket: A Case Study of Cold Cereal Purchases

WIC households incur no cost for WIC-approved foods, and economic theory suggests that they may be less sensitive to prices when using WIC benefits than when paying out of pocket. ERS examines this assumption in a case study of WIC households' choices in purchasing cold cereals (May 2016).

Where Do WIC Participants Redeem Their Food Benefits? An Analysis of WIC Food Dollar Redemption Patterns by Store Type

In FY 2012, over three-fourths of WIC retail food benefits were redeemed at large stores (supercenters, supermarkets, or large grocery stores). Although WIC may not encourage participants to be price sensitive, the many redemptions at large stores may be due to the 63-percent share of WIC vendors that are large stores and participants' tendency to shop for WIC foods at the same stores where they shop anyway (April 2016).

Manufacturers' Bids for WIC Infant Formula Rebate Contracts, 2003-2013

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is the major purchaser of infant formula in the United States. WIC State agencies are required to have competitively bid infant formula rebate contracts with infant formula manufacturers. This study analyzes the winning and losing bids from the infant formula manufacturers (July 2015).

Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel To Get There? Initial Findings from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey

This report compares food shopping patterns of (1) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households to nonparticipant households, (2) participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to nonparticipants, and (3) food-insecure to food-secure households (March 2015).

The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2015 Edition

WIC provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and referrals to health care and other social services to low-income, nutritionally at-risk women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age. This report explains how WIC works, examines program trends, describes some of the lesser known effects of WIC, and discusses some of the major economic issues facing the program (January 2015).

Amber Waves

Amber Waves, ERS's magazine, is a window into the agency's broad research program. Amber Waves covers production agriculture, food safety and nutrition, the food industry, rural economies, agricultural trade, and farm-related environmental issues. Published in a web edition, Amber Waves contains in-depth feature articles and research findings, including a variety of articles related to WIC and other food and nutrition assistance programs. The following articles are particularly relevant to WIC:

Journal Articles

Guthrie, J.F., A.S. Anater, J.C. Hampton, D.J. Catellier, A.L. Eldridge, W.L. Johnson, and E.E. Quan. “The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is Associated with Several Changes in Nutrient Intakes and Food Consumption Patterns of Participating Infants and Young Children, 2008 Compared with 2016,” Journal of Nutrition, 150(11): 2985-2993, October 2020.

Zhang, Q., R. Lamichhane, M. Wright, P.W. McLaughlin, and B. Stacy. “Trends in Breastfeeding Disparities in US Infants by WIC Eligibility and Participation,” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 51(2): 182-189, February 2019.

McLaughlin, P.W., T.L. Saitone, and R.J. Sexton. “The Economics of Food Vendors Specialized to Serving the Women, Infants, and Children Program,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 101(1): 20-38, January 2019

Çakir, M., T.K.M. Beatty, M.A. Boland, T.A. Park, S. Snyder, and Y. Wang. "Spatial and Temporal Variation in the Value of the Women, Infants, and Children Program’s Fruit and Vegetable Voucher," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 100 (3): 691-706, April 2018.

Guthrie, J.F., D.J. Catellier, E.F. Jacquier, A.L. Eldridge, W.L. Johnson, A.C. Lutes, A.S. Anater, and E.E. Quann. “WIC and Non-WIC Infants and Children Differ in Usage of Some WIC-Provided Foods”, Journal of Nutrition, 148: 1547S-1556S, February 2018

Zhang, Q., C. Tang, P.W. McLaughlin, and L. Diggs. "Individual and Store Characteristics Associated with Brand Choices in Select Food Category Redemptions among WIC Participants in Virginia," International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14 (4): 364-73, April 2017.

Andreyeva, T., and A. Trippe. "The Healthfulness of Food and Beverage Purchases After the Federal Food Package Revisions: The Case of Two New England States," Preventive Medicine, 91: 204-21, October 2016.

Oh, M., H. Jensen, and I. Rahkovsky. "Did Revisions to the WIC Program Affect Household Expenditures on Whole Grains?," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 38 (4): 578-98, December 2016.

Saitone, T., R. Sexton, and R. Volpe. "A Wicked Problem? Cost Containment in the Women, Infants and Children Program," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 37 (3): 378-402, September 2015.