But programs like Medicaid, WIC and SNAP are helping, the researchers write. Mothers living in counties where WIC is offered are now less likely to have low-birth-weight babies. The same is true for those receiving SNAP. One study showed that access to food stamps in early childhood led to a significant reduction in obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes later in life. These mothers also became more economically independent later.
In that same vein, the Nurse Family Partnership Program (NFP), which provides guidance to pregnant women and new mothers, has helped poor children by reducing their chances of being injured or involved with criminal activity. Past research shows that this program benefits the poorest of mothers, with especially large effects for those with lower levels of intelligence and mental health.
"WIC is up for congressional reauthorization in the next fiscal year, and NFP, which the Obama administration originally hoped to greatly expand, has grown very little relative to the need," said Currie. "While there may be other programs that could be effective, it's important to take an evidence-based approach to policy recommendations. These studies provide valuable insights for policy makers and can inform future decisions."
Pollution, Violence and Stress
Poor women are more likely to be affected by outside forces like pollution, violence and stress, which all affect infant health.
Because of lower housing costs, poor mothers tend to live near and be exposed to sources of pollution which has been shown to have particularly negative effects on infants in the womb. But a study of electronic toll-collection devices (E-ZP
|Contact: B. Rose Huber|
Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs