WIC Research Highlights 


WIC saves lives and improves the health of nutritionally at-risk women, infants and children.  The WIC Program has earned the reputation of being one of the most successful Federally-funded nutrition programs in the United States.  Studies conducted by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service and other non-government entities detail the success and cost-effectiveness of the nutrition intervention:

Improved Birth Outcomes and Savings in Health Care Costs 2,3,4,5,6

  • Fewer premature births and infant deaths.
  • Reduces low birth weight rates by 25% and very low birth weight rates by 44%.
  • A greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care.
  • Savings in health care costs from $2.89 to $3.50 for each dollar spent on WIC during the first 18 years of life.

Improved Diet and Diet-Related Outcomes 3,4,5,6,7

  • WIC increased children's intake of iron, zinc, vitamins A, B6, and C, and folate.
  • WIC has a major impact on reducing anemia among children and improves children's general health status.    
  • WIC participation is associated with an acceleration of growth for infants and children's weight and length/height.

Improved Infant Feeding Practices 1,5

  • WIC promotes breastfeeding as the optimal method of infant feeding, consistent with the goals and objectives of Healthy People 2010 and the policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • WIC mothers who receive breastfeeding instruction and peer counseling have a higher breastfeeding initiation rate and breastfeed longer than eligible non-participants.

Improved Rates of Childhood Immunizations and Regular Source of Medical Care  3,4,5

  • WIC participation has a positive impact on the likelihood of children having more up-to-date immunizations.
  • WIC participants have better access to healthcare and are more likely to use both preventive and curative health services for a wide range of health conditions, compared with eligible non-participants.  

Improved Cognitive Development 3

  • WIC participation ensures cognitive development because infants who experience nutritional deficiencies that are serious enough to disrupt their linear growth during infancy are at increased risk for cognitive and academic problems during school-age years.
  • WIC reduces fetal deaths and infant mortality.
  • WIC reduces low birthweight rates and increases the duration of pregnancy.
  • WIC improves the growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children.
  • WIC decreases the incidence of iron deficiency anemia in children.
  • WIC improves the dietary intake of pregnant and postpartum women and promotes proper weight gain in pregnant women.
  • Pregnant women with prior WIC participation receive prenatal care earlier.
  • Children enrolled in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and have more up to date immunizations.
  • Children who receive WIC benefits demonstrate improved intellectual development.
  • WIC significantly improves children's diets.


1.  American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding Policy Statement. J Pediatrics. 2005 Feb; Vol.115 No. 2:496-506.

2.  Bitler MP, Currie J. Does WIC work? The effects of WIC on pregnancy and birth outcomes. RAND Corporation, J Policy Anal Manage. Winter, 24(1), 2005.

3. Black, Maureen M., et. al., Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Participation and Infants’ Growth and Health: A Multisite Surveillance Study.  PEDIATRICS Vol. 114 No. 1, July 2004.

4.  Fox, Mary Kay, William Hamilton, and Biing-Hwan Lin.  Effects of Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs on Nutrition and Health: Volume 4, Executive Summary of the Literature Review.  U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.  Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. (FANRR19-4), December 2004.

5.  Oliveira, Victor, Elizabeth Racine, Jennifer Olmstead, and Linda M. Ghelfi.  The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Issues.  US Dept. of Agriculture, Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. (FANRR27), October 2002.

6.  Owen Anita L., George M. Owen.  Twenty years of WIC: a review of some effects of the program.  Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 97, Issue 7, July 1997.

7.  Siega-Riz AM, Kranz S, Blanchette D, Haines PS, Guilkey DK, Popkin BM. The effect of participation in the WIC program on preschoolers' diets. J Pediatrics. 2004 Feb; 144(2): 229-34