Age limit for federal food assistance program impacts reading scores, learning

June 19, 2018 by Sheena Rice, University of Missouri-Columbia

Nearly 1 million children face food insecurity simply because they were born late in the year. No safety net coverage exists for these children when they age out of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and they are not yet eligible to attend kindergarten. Irma Arteaga, assistant professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, has found that not only does the coverage gap impact overall food insecurity, it reduces reading scores at kindergarten entry, a time when children are often placed on learning trajectories. Arteaga says policymakers should consider extending WIC eligibility until children enter school rather than setting an age limit.

"The cutoff age of 5 for WIC is associated with an assumption that this is the normal age at which children enter and become eligible for lunch programs," Arteaga said. "However, not all children who are 5 automatically begin school. State and local rules, not federal, determine the age at which children begin kindergarten. These rules are reliant on some predetermined date—for example, Sept. 1­—meaning children born after that date will not enter kindergarten until the following year, thus losing WIC benefits with nothing to replace them."

Arteaga and her team analyzed data for 1,950 children between the ages of 4 and 6½ from a nationally representative data set. The researchers found evidence that children who had aged out of WIC prior to attending kindergarten had lower reading scores compared to their peers when tested at entry. The scores improved when tested again in the spring after children had access to through lunch programs.

The findings were consistent with prior MU research that showed an increase in rates of for children who age out of WIC and who have not yet started kindergarten.

"The coverage gap that exists for children who are aging out of WIC is a problem that can be fixed," Arteaga said. "Policymakers should address the unintended consequences facing millions of each year who are unlucky enough to be born in the wrong state and in the wrong month."

Explore further: Age limit for federal food assistance program is increasing food insecurity

More information: Irma Arteaga et al, Design Flaws: Consequences of the Coverage Gap in Food Programs for Children at Kindergarten Entry, Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy (2018). DOI: 10.1093/aepp/ppy009

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1 / 5 (1) Jun 20, 2018
What the hell are we doing wasting money on such stupid ''research''? Since when is it the duty if the American Taxpayer to feed the children. Let's see, our Liberal Brothers and Sisters want us to import more and more poor children into our country and then we find a reason to feed and house the,. AND we find a ''professor'' like the author to decry the poverty in a program funded by the American Taxpayer to make sure we all feel guilty and obliged to use more American Taxpayer moneyto house and feed them. The old adage, ''Follow the Money'' applies once again. CREATE a problem, STUDY, the Problem, define a SOLUTION to the problem that requires TAXPAYER FUNDING, FUND the Solution them STUDY the efficacy of the PROBLEM, determine that the SOLUTION is INADEQUATE, demand more funding because the SOLUTION, while inadequate works a little, then SPEND more Taxpayer Money.....and on and on, and on............................................... Cut ALL FUNDING for these academics.

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