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

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Growing a dinosaur's dinner

July 13, 2018

Scientists have measured the nutritional value of herbivore dinosaurs' diet by growing their food in atmospheric conditions similar to those found roughly 150 million years ago.

A statistical study of the hot streak

July 12, 2018

An international team of researchers has conducted a statistical analysis of hot streaks to learn more about this mysterious facet of human nature. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes how they ...

Study finds solos twice as common in sad songs

July 11, 2018

Music can transport a spirit from sullen to joyful. It can bring a concertgoer to unexpected tears. But the details of just how that connection between performance and emotion works remain largely mysterious.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Joker23
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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.