Participation in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program as Reported by Documented and Undocumented Farm Worker Adults in the Households

J Agromedicine. 2015;20(4):409-18. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2015.1074973.


Debate surrounds the provision of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits to undocumented immigrants. Few studies are available to estimate use of WIC services by documented and undocumented households using nationally representative data. The authors analyzed data from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) annual cross-sections from 1993 through 2009 (N = 40,896 person-years). Household documentation status is defined by the status of the adults in the household, not children. Simple mean differences, logistic regressions, and time charts described household participation in WIC over 2-year intervals. Without adjustments for covariates, 10.7% of undocumented farm workers' households and 12.4% of documented households received WIC benefits, yielding an odds ratio of 0.84 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.76-0.94). Logistic regressions revealed that for the same number of children in the household, participation by undocumented persons was higher than participation by documented persons. Time charts and logistic regressions with interaction terms showed a stronger correspondence between participation in WIC and number of children <6 years old in undocumented households than documented households. Undocumented farm workers' households were only a little less likely to participate in WIC than documented farm workers' households, and undocumented households' participation was especially responsive to the presence of children. These results are consistent with the legal requirements for WIC participation, which do not distinguish between documented and undocumented households. These results may be helpful in the debate surrounding the effects of undocumented workers on WIC participation and costs.

Keywords: Health services; immigrants; low-income.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Farmers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Government Programs
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal-Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Assistance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Undocumented Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult