Efficiency Versus Equity in the Provision of In-Kind Benefits: Evidence from Cost Containment in the California WIC Program

40 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2020

See all articles by Katherine Meckel

Katherine Meckel

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics

Maya Rossin-Slater

Stanford University

Lindsey Uniat

Stanford University

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Abstract

The government often contracts with private firms to deliver in-kind safety net benefits. These public-private partnerships generate agency problems that could increase costs, but cost-containment reforms may discourage firm participation. We study a 2012 reform of California's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children that reduced the number of small vendors. We show that within-ZIP-code access to small vendors increases take-up among first-time and foreign-born mothers, suggesting that small vendors are distinctly effective at lowering take-up barriers among women with high program learning costs. Thus, cost containment reforms may have unintended consequences of inequitably reducing program access.

Keywords: WIC program, benefit take-up, in-kind transfers, cost containment

JEL Classification: H40, I18, I38

Suggested Citation

Meckel, Katherine and Rossin-Slater, Maya and Uniat, Lindsey, Efficiency Versus Equity in the Provision of In-Kind Benefits: Evidence from Cost Containment in the California WIC Program. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12957, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3542626

Katherine Meckel (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics ( email )

5201 University Blvd.
College Station, TX 77843-4228
United States

Maya Rossin-Slater

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Lindsey Uniat

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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