Did Revisions to the WIC Program Affect Household Expenditures on Whole Grains?

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Oh, Miyoung
Rahkovsky, Ilya
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Jensen, Helen
Professor Emeritus
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The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 to teach economic theory as a truth of industrial life, and was very much concerned with applying economics to business and industry, particularly agriculture. Between 1910 and 1967 it showed the growing influence of other social studies, such as sociology, history, and political science. Today it encompasses the majors of Agricultural Business (preparing for agricultural finance and management), Business Economics, and Economics (for advanced studies in business or economics or for careers in financing, management, insurance, etc).

The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 under the Division of Industrial Science (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); it became co-directed by the Division of Agriculture in 1919. In 1910 it became the Department of Economics and Political Science. In 1913 it became the Department of Applied Economics and Social Science; in 1924 it became the Department of Economics, History, and Sociology; in 1931 it became the Department of Economics and Sociology. In 1967 it became the Department of Economics, and in 2007 it became co-directed by the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Business.

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  • Department of Economic Science (1898–1910)
  • Department of Economics and Political Science (1910-1913)
  • Department of Applied Economics and Social Science (1913–1924)
  • Department of Economics, History and Sociology (1924–1931)
  • Department of Economics and Sociology (1931–1967)

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Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) conducts innovative public policy and economic research on agricultural, environmental, and food issues. CARD uniquely combines academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

CARD researchers develop and apply economic theory, quantitative methods, and interdisciplinary approaches to create relevant knowledge. Communication efforts target state and federal policymakers; the research community; agricultural, food, and environmental groups; individual decision-makers; and international audiences.

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The food packages provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program changed in 2009. This article examines purchases of whole grain products before and after the change. Nielsen Homescan panel data from 2008 to 2010 provide information on households’ food purchases, demographics, and self-reported WIC participation status. We estimate the effect of WIC participation and the 2009 package change on whole grains purchases using a difference-in-difference method, and find that participation in the WIC program was associated with more whole grain purchases during the observed period; the package change in 2009 roughly doubled the associated effect of WIC participation on the purchases of whole grain products. These results are consistent with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and suggest that moderate innovations in the design of food assistance programs can lead to beneficial dietary choices.


This article is published as Oh, Miyoung, Helen H. Jensen, and Ilya Rahkovsky. "Did revisions to the WIC program affect household expenditures on whole grains?." Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 38 (2016): 578-598. doi: 10.1093/aepp/ppw020.