This report provides eligibility estimates for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. WIC provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, and referrals to other services. Using survey data for 2014, the project found 15 million individuals were eligible for WIC in an average month, including 62 percent of all infants. Overall, 54.8 percent of eligible people participated. Infants had the highest coverage rate (80 percent). Previous estimation methods were updated for this report, and updated estimates are shown for 2005 through 2013. Eligibility and coverage rate data are also shown at the state level.
WIC Eligibility and Coverage Rates
In 2014, 15 million people were eligible to receive benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in a given month. Of the 15 million, 55 percent, or just over 8 million people, were covered by the program.
National WIC eligibility and coverage rates by year and participant category
In 2014, more than 2.4 million infants (62 percent of all infants) in the United States were eligible for WIC. Eighty percent of eligible infants participated in the program. In comparison, 50 percent of eligible pregnant women were covered.
Between 2013 and 2014, overall monthly eligibility increased 4 percent (from 14.5 to 15 million people), and the overall coverage rate (the share of eligible people who participated in WIC) decreased from 59 to 55 percent.
The number of WIC-eligible infants and children in each age category was roughly equal in 2014, but coverage rates drop as children get older.
Coverage rates by state in 2014
Although coverage rates vary significantly across states, almost all states follow the national pattern of having the highest coverage rates for infants, lower coverage rates for women, and the lowest coverage rates for children.
In 2014, California, Minnesota, Maryland, and Vermont had the highest coverage rates overall.
WIC demographics for eligible infants and children in 2014
Non-Hispanic white infants and children constitute the largest share of WIC-eligible infants and children (38 percent), but Hispanic infants and children have the highest coverage rate (67 percent).
Twenty-four percent of eligible infants and children live in households with six or more members, and about 22 percent live in households with five members; only 5 percent live in households with only two members.
Nearly 60 percent of WIC-eligible infants and children live in two-parent households, while 36 percent live in single-parent households. About 5 percent of WIC-eligible infants and children live in no-parent families with 3.3 percent living with a related nonparent caretaker and 1.3 percent living with an unrelated nonparent caretaker.