Policymakers have been debating the value of social assistance programs, specifically whether they create a dependence resulting in unnecessary waste. We examine the impact of targeted social assistance programs on infant health, while also accounting for variations in sociodemographic and economic factors across the nation. Using information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we combine information on infant health with data on state social assistance programs taken mostly from the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research between the years 1998 and 2015 for all US states. We find that an increase in TANF and SNAP generosity within a state is associated with an improvement in infant health. Our findings demonstrate the need for a social safety net to help the less fortunate and keep a productive society healthy.


• policy evaluation • welfare • social assistance • public policy • health policy