Increasing Uptake and Improving Health: Experimental Evidence on Take-Up of the WIC Program
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is an important part of the safety net for pregnant women. WIC is a large program, covering about half of infants, and WIC participation has multiple health impacts in pregnancy. Despite this, the program is significantly under-enrolled. Only 63% of eligible pregnant women participate and participation has declined since 2010. Our research pilots a new approach to connect women to WIC. More than 90% of reproductive-age women have smartphones, and more than half use applications to track menstruation and pregnancy. Because prenatal care is underused, apps may provide a uniquely low-cost, scalable way to reach women in early pregnancy. We have partnered with the designers of an app used by several million WIC-eligible women. We pilot a randomized controlled trial that experimentally tests approaches to encourage WIC take-up. Because the app tracks pregnancy health, the experiment also (a) provides the first randomly-assigned variation with which to evaluate WIC health impacts and (b) allows us to test how well-targeted marginal WIC participants are. Pilot evidence will support future partnerships with state WIC and Medicaid agencies to expand the design with administrative data.