Did the Introduction of Food Stamps Affect Birth Outcomes in California?

June 2006

Janet Currie, Columbia University; Enrico Moretti, University of California, Berkeley.

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Do welfare programs that raise the income of poor mothers affect infant mortality? Over the 1960s, U.S. infant mortality fell dramatically. The white rate fell from 23 to 17 per 1,000, while the African-American rate fell from 43 to 32 per 1,000. These declines are coincident with the introduction of federal transfer programs including Medicaid and the Food Stamp Program (FSP). But it is not clear whether there is an actual link between welfare programs and improvements in infant mortality. While there is little doubt that improving maternal nutrition can lead to healthier babies, it is less clear that the introduction of a program like the FSP will have significant effects either on maternal nutrition, or infant health outcomes.

Child Well-being and Child Development, Food Assistance Programs and Food Security, Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care