The Impact of Welfare Sanctions on the Health of Infants and Toddlers

This report summarizes the association of welfare sanctions with the health and food security of children less than 3 years of age in 6 large U.S. cities. The report is based on findings published in the July 2002 issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, using data collected by the Children’s Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program (C-SNAP), as well as additional data presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting in Baltimore, 2002.

The main findings are summarized below.

1. Welfare sanctions and benefit decrease are associated with significantly increased rates of hospitalizations in young children.

  • Infants and toddlers in families whose welfare benefits have been terminated or reduced by sanctions have approximately 30% higher risk of having past hospitalizations than children in families whose benefits have not  been decreased.
  • Infants and toddlers in families whose welfare benefits have been terminated or reduced by sanctions have 90% higher risk of being hospitalized at the time of an emergency room visit than those in families’ whose benefits have not been decreased.
  • Infants or toddlers whose welfare benefits have been decreased have almost 3 times the risk of being admitted to the hospital at an ER visit.
  •  Receiving Food Stamp benefits or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) does not protect infants or toddlers from the negative health impacts of welfare sanctions or a decrease in welfare benefit.

2. Welfare sanctions are associated  with significantly increased rates of food insecurity in households of young children.

  • Families with infants and toddlers whose welfare benefits have been terminated or reduced by sanctions have approximately 50% higher risk of being food insecure than similar families whose benefits have not  been decreased.

3. Time Trends in Health and  Food Insecurity of Infants and Toddlers from 1999-2001. In 2001, infants and toddlers of US-born
families studied from Boston and Minneapolis have approximately:

  • 40% higher risk of food insecurity compared to 1999.
  • 30% higher risk of being underweight compared to 1999.
  •  50% higher risk of being hospitalized during an ER visit compared to 1999.