2002–2003 Funded Proposals

The Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsor a competition that provides small grants for research on poverty and food assistance programs. Three or four grants are offered for research during the academic year. Grants are in amounts of $25,000 to $35,000 maximum.

Final reports for these projects appear as IRP Discussion Papers (titles may differ; see links below).

Proposals funded for the period July 1, 2002-December 31, 2003:


The Impact of the WIC Program on Pregnancy, Infant and Child Outcomes
Marianne Bitler, Rand Corporation

Final report: DP 1286-04

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food and nutritional information to low-income infants, children under 5, and pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding women. Some past studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of WIC, but have been criticized for the limited data sources used and for failing to account for selection bias–if healthy or otherwise advantaged women are more likely to enter the WIC program, that might account for positive outcomes. This study will use fixed-effects and instrumental-variable strategies to correct for possible positive selection into the program, and will use a panel data set, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and the Children and Youth Surveys, which in 1986 began collecting data on the children of the panel members. The intent of this research is to provide better evidence on the effects of WIC and to give attention to a subpopulation that has been ignored in much of the WIC literature–children aged 1-4.

An Individual-Level Analysis of Food Stamp Dynamics
Colleen Heflin, University of Kentucky

Final report: DP 1279-04

The decline in Food Stamp program participation that accompanied the decline in welfare caseloads following the welfare reform legislation of 1996 has raised concerns that some clients leaving welfare also left the Food Stamp program even though they continued to be eligible for receipt. This project will use data from the first four waves of the Women's Employment Survey, a panel study of barriers to employment among mothers who were receiving cash welfare assistance in an urban county in Michigan in 1997. The investigator will examine Food Stamp exit in relation to the women's demographic characteristics, physical and mental health, car ownership, household moves, and knowledge of Food Stamp eligibility. The results should prove useful in identifying clients at risk of leaving the program while still eligible for benefits.

Exploring the Effects of the National School Lunch Program on Child Obesity and Development Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study
Lori Kowaleski-Jones, University of Utah, and Rachel Dunifon, Cornell University

Final report: DP 1277-04

The National School Lunch Program, a federally sponsored nutrition program, provided free or reduced-cost lunches to 26 million low-income children in 1998. The investigators will use data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative sample of children enrolled in kindergarten programs in the 1998-1999 school year, to examine (1) the effects of participation in the program on test scores and obesity, (2) whether these effects differ according to school context, and (3) whether the effects differ by children's characteristics, such as gender or income status. The findings of this study will provide information on the effects of the program on children's physical and cognitive development and on the question of whether school settings affect the success of school nutrition programs.

The Role of Food Assistance and Employment in Helping Food Insecure Families Avoid Hunger
Nader Kabbani, American University of Beirut

Final report: DP 1280-04

Using data from the 1997 and 1999 Food Security Supplements of the Current Population Survey, this research will focus on the role that food assistance programs play in alleviating hunger among food insecure households with children - that is, households in which, at some point during the previous year, there was uncertainty of having enough food to meet basic needs for all household members due to insufficient resources. Earlier work by the investigator found that households with children were more likely to experience food insecurity than households without children, but that households with children were less likely to experience hunger than those without children. This suggests that food insecure households with children may be drawing on personal and/or public resources to help them avoid hunger. The present study will examine the role that food assistance programs play in alleviating hunger among households with children, as well as how the work effort of the household head, over the course of a year, affects household food security.