The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides nutritious foods that promote the health of low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and preschool children. Infants and children up to age five from low-income families and found to be at nutritional risk are eligible. Low-income women found to be at nutritional risk are also eligible for WIC throughout their pregnancy and for up to one year postpartum (limited to six months for mothers who are not breastfeeding). In some States, women, infants, and children in households that participate in other assistance programs are automatically income eligible. In 2008, an average of 8.7 million women, infants, and children participated in the program each month. Infants and children compose 75 percent of the WIC population.
WIC enrollment and departure by infants and children are largely affected by changes in eligibility related to age. However, other factors affect eligibility and participation as well, since many children drop out of the program before their eligibility period expires. In this study we focus on four events related to the dynamics of WIC participation by eligible infants and children: entry, exit, continuity of participation, and re-entry. We also examined trigger events that led to entry into the program and exit from it. We conduct the study in two stages. In the first stage, a descriptive analysis, we examine the dynamics of WIC participation for infants and children, from 2001 to 2003, including rates of entry among low-income infants and children; age of the infant or child at first entry; the percentage that continue to participate from one age to another; and age of the infant or child at exit. In the second stage, a multivariate analysis, we explore the factors associated with their entry into and exit from the program.
Periodic examination of these WIC participation dynamics leads to a better understanding of overall trends in the size of the WIC caseload and the factors that affect participation. In addition, this analysis may help WIC outreach programs in targeting those who tend to enroll late or not at all, and in understanding why some participants leave WIC when they remain eligible for the program. (author abstract)