Recommendation: The panel recommends that alternative methods for estimating WIC participation rates be examined. In addition, further research concerning factors that influence the decision to apply for and participate in WIC should be conducted.
The panel has not had time in this first phase of the study to fully consider alternative methods for estimating participation rates, but it does propose a short-term alternative in the interim. The method multiplies lagged WIC participation rates from the latest year available by estimates of eligibility for the prediction year to compute an estimate of participation for the prediction year. The panel’s future work will explore the appropriateness of this method and other methods more fully.
The second phase of the panel’s work will focus on alternative estimation methods to reduce the substantial systematic biases present in the current estimates of eligibility. Methods for estimating the number of people who are adjunctively eligible for WIC will be a priority in Phase II. Other eligibility topics the panel will further investigate include use of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) or other data alternatives or supplements to the CPS; estimating eligibility in the U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the American Virgin Islands), methods for estimating the number of eligible pregnant women; methods for estimating breastfeeding rates in order to estimate the number of eligible postpartum women; and methods and data for estimating the prevalence of nutritional risk. In addition, the general precision of the eligibility estimates will be explored. Finally, Phase II will examine alternative methods to estimate the number of eligible people who are likely to participate in WIC if the program is fully funded.