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Estimating Eligibility and Participation for the WIC Program: Phase I Report
on estimates of the number of WIC eligible infants and children. Current methods make only a minor adjustment for those who are adjunctively eligible for WIC that does not fully account for all who are eligible for WIC. Thus, the estimates of WIC eligibility are substantially understated. A priority for the panel’s Phase II is to explore alternative ways to estimate the number of people who are adjunctively eligible for WIC.
Current methods for adjusting the estimates of the number of income eligible persons for the prevalence of nutritional risk are based on old data about nutritional risk prevalence. More recent estimates have been made, but there are reasons to believe they may be flawed. The panel recommends that estimates of nutritional risk should be reexamined. In Phase II, the panel will consider alternative data and methods for estimating the prevalence of nutritional risk.
The panel reviewed current methods for estimating the number of income eligible persons who would participate in WIC. We conclude that the current method of using food stamp participation rates as a proxy for WIC participation is problematic and that new methods should be considered. A priority for Phase II is to more fully consider different methods to estimate participation in the WIC program.
The panel plans to explore a number of new topics in Phase II: use of alternative datasets for the core estimates, estimating eligibility in the U.S. territories, methods for estimating eligible pregnant women, and methods for estimating breastfeeding rates in order to estimate the number of eligible postpartum women.
ALTERNATIVE DATASETS FOR ESTIMATING INCOME ELIGIBILITY
The March Income Supplement of the CPS is currently used to estimate the core number of persons who are income eligible for the WIC program. However, other data sets have certain features that may make them better-suited for estimating WIC eligibility. The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is the primary example, since it collects monthly income data and monthly data on demographic and household composition. The panel will extend the work of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) publication (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1999a) regarding the strengths and limitations of the CPS and the SIPP for WIC eligibility estimation purposes.
An alternative strategy for obtaining WIC eligibility estimates may be