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Abstract

Only about 60% of eligible people participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and evidence indicates that these recipients do not claim all of the benefits available to them. Transaction costs and negative stigma associated with participating in the program are likely to discourage eligible people from enrolling, and enrollees from redeeming all of their benefits. As of November 2016, sixteen states have implemented Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for WIC, potentially reducing the amount of time required for each transaction and making it more difficult to identify beneficiaries. In this manuscript we analyze the impact the transition to WIC EBT has on enrollment, WIC benefits redemption, and non-WIC food expenditures using enrollment data for five states, and expenditure data for 17,714 households enrolled in WIC. We find no evidence that EBT increases the chance that eligible people enroll in the WIC program. We do find evidence that WIC recipients redeem more benefits two to four months after the transition, and there is no evidence that they increase expenditures on non-WIC foods.

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