Obesity Among Young Children Enrolled in WIC

Obesity affects children from families with low incomes more than children from families with higher income. Children in families with low incomes are often served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

CDC works with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to monitor childhood obesity and identify priority groups and areas that need attention. USDA manages the WIC program at national and regional levels.

CDC and USDA analyze data from the WIC Participant and Program Characteristics Reportexternal icon (WIC PC). USDA conducts a biennial census in April of even years to collect data for this report. The WIC PC summarizes the demographic characteristics of WIC participants nationwide and includes information on nutrition risk characteristics such as weight status.

What Is WIC?

WIC is a federal program that promotes healthy eating and nutrition education for infants and children up to age 5 and for women with low incomes who are pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding.

Nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood is critical for healthy child growth and development. To be eligible for WICexternal icon, women, infants, and children must meet residential, income, and nutrition risk requirements.

Data Show Modest Decline in Obesity Among Young Children Enrolled in WIC

CDC and USDA analyzed WIC data from 56 US states and territories between 2010 and 2018. During this time, 31 WIC agencies reported significant declines in obesity among children aged 2 to 4 years. The prevalence of obesity reported in 2018 ranged from 8.5% to 20.2%.

Other findings included:

  • Obesity went down by more than 3% in New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.
  • Obesity went up significantly in Alabama (0.6%), Hawaii (1.1%), New Hampshire (1.9%), North Carolina (1.6%), West Virginia (2.1%), and the US Virgin Islands (2.7%).

Tip: When discussing topics like obesity and other chronic diseases, use person-first language (e.g., children with obesity) as well as respectful images. More information can be found here: Guidelines for Media Portrayals of Individuals Affected by Obesityexternal icon.

Maternal, Infant, & Toddler Nutrition.   A collection of resources for parents, caregivers, and health care providers.
Prevalence of Obesitya Among Children Aged 2 to 4 Years Enrolled in WIC, by US State or Territory, 2010–2018
2010 2018 2010 to 2018
State No. Crude Prevalence
% (95% CI)
No. Crude Prevalence
% (95% CI)
Adjusted Prevalence Differenceb
(95% CI)
Alabamac 45,743 15.8 (15.5, 16.2) 38,400 16.2 (15.8, 16.6) 0.6 (0.1, 1.1)
Alaskac 10,108 21.2 (20.4, 22.0) 5,353 20.2 (19.2, 21.3) -1.3 (-2.6, 0.0)
Arizonac 72,933 15.0 (14.8, 15.3) 57,769 12.5 (12.2, 12.7) -2.2 (-2.6, -1.8)
Arkansasc 31,245 14.8 (14.4, 15.2) 21,377 13.1 (12.7, 13.6) -1.5 (-2.1, -0.9)
Californiac 583,008 18.4 (18.3, 18.5) 425,732 15.8 (15.7, 15.9) -2.2 (-2.3, -2.0)
Coloradoc 39,612 9.6 (9.3, 9.8) 30,642 8.6 (8.3, 8.9) -0.7 (-1.1, -0.3)
Connecticutc 22,988 17.1 (16.6, 17.6) 17,937 14.5 (14.0, 15.0) -2.7 (-3.4, -1.9)
Delaware 7,650 18.4 (17.5, 19.2) 5,870 16.3 (15.4, 17.3) -0.9 (-2.2, 0.4)
District of Columbia 5,182 14.4 (13.5, 15.4) 4,174 12.8 (11.8, 13.8) -1.0 (-2.4, 0.3)
Floridac 194,924 14.6 (14.4, 14.7) 179,667 13.3 (13.2, 13.5) -1.3 (-1.5, -1.1)
Georgiac 104,959 14.4 (14.2, 14.6) 68,537 13.6 (13.4, 13.9) -0.5 (-0.8, -0.2)
Hawaiic 14,504 9.7 (9.3, 10.2) 10,871 10.7 (10.1, 11.2) 1.1 (0.3, 1.9)
Idaho 18,704 11.9 (11.5, 12.4) 13,225 12.0 (11.5, 12.6) 0.2 (-0.5, 0.9)
Illinois 108,762 15.7 (15.5, 15.9) 69,573 15.2 (15.0, 15.5) 0.2 (-0.2, 0.5)
Indianac 63,220 15.1 (14.8, 15.4) 53,403 13.5 (13.2, 13.8) -1.3 (-1.7, -0.9)
Iowa 29,481 15.6 (15.2, 16.0) 23,331 15.6 (15.1, 16.1) 0.4 (-0.3, 1.0)
Kansas 30,458 13.7 (13.4, 14.1) 21,050 13.7 (13.2, 14.1) 0.1 (-0.5, 0.7)
Kentuckyc 45,761 18.2 (17.9, 18.6) 34,628 16.3 (15.9, 16.7) -1.8 (-2.3, -1.3)
Louisianac 48,145 13.8 (13.5, 14.1) 32,050 13.0 (12.7, 13.4) -1.0 (-1.5, -0.6)
Maine 10,410 15.2 (14.6, 15.9) 7,247 14.6 (13.8, 15.4) -0.6 (-1.7, 0.5)
Marylandc 51,280 17.1 (16.8, 17.4) 47,153 16.4 (16.0, 16.7) -0.6 (-1.1, -0.2)
Massachusettsc 49,178 17.1 (16.8, 17.5) 37,993 16.3 (15.9, 16.7) -1.4 (-1.9, -0.9)
Michigan 85,293 14.4 (14.2, 14.6) 76,573 13.7 (13.4, 13.9) -0.3 (-0.6, 0.0)
Minnesota 57,529 12.7 (12.4, 13.0) 43,399 12.5 (12.2, 12.8) -0.3 (-0.7, 0.1)
Mississippi 36,519 14.9 (14.6, 15.3) 29,651 14.8 (14.4, 15.2) -0.3 (-0.8, 0.3)
Missouric 50,575 14.4 (14.1, 14.8) 36,127 13.0 (12.7, 13.4) -1.3 (-1.8, -0.9)
Montanac 7,194 13.4 (12.6, 14.2) 6,491 11.9 (11.1, 12.7) -1.7 (-2.8, -0.6)
Nebraska 15,622 14.4 (13.8, 14.9) 12,828 14.7 (14.1, 15.3) 0.3 (-0.5, 1.2)
Nevadac 25,855 15.0 (14.6, 15.5) 24,429 11.7 (11.3, 12.1) -2.4 (-3.0, -1.8)
New Hampshirec 7,263 15.0 (14.1, 15.8) 5,357 17.2 (16.2, 18.2) 1.9 (0.6, 3.2)
New Jerseyc 59,000 18.9 (18.6, 19.2) 46,668 14.9 (14.5, 15.2) -4.0 (-4.5, -3.6)
New Mexicoc 21,968 15.7 (15.2, 16.1) 16,505 13.0 (12.5, 13.6) -2.7 (-3.4, -2.0)
New Yorkc 186,760 16.1 (16.0, 16.3) 164,822 14.0 (13.8, 14.2) -1.6 (-1.8, -1.3)
North Carolinac 89,798 13.9 (13.6, 14.1) 88,963 15.0 (14.8, 15.3) 1.6 (1.3, 1.9)
North Dakota 5,484 14.5 (13.5, 15.4) 4,560 15.4 (14.4, 16.5) 1.4 (-0.1, 2.8)
Ohio 102,803 12.6 (12.4, 12.8) 66,169 12.6 (12.3, 12.9) -0.1 (-0.4, 0.3)
Oklahomac 37,849 15.4 (15.1, 15.8) 29,940 13.8 (13.4, 14.2) -1.5 (-2.1, -1.0)
Oregonc 43,209 15.8 (15.5, 16.2) 33,899 14.6 (14.3, 15.0) -0.9 (-1.4, -0.4)
Pennsylvania 96,762 12.8 (12.6, 13.1) 74,206 12.8 (12.6, 13.0) 0.1 (-0.2, 0.4)
Rhode Island 10,783 16.4 (15.7, 17.1) 7,028 17.1 (16.3, 18.0) 0.4 (-0.7, 1.6)
South Carolina 39,785 13.3 (13.0, 13.7) 26,589 12.7 (12.3, 13.1) -0.4 (-0.9, 0.1)
South Dakotac 7,884 17.3 (16.5, 18.1) 6,269 16.0 (15.1, 16.9) -2.1 (-3.4, -0.9)
Tennesseec 57,153 16.0 (15.7, 16.3) 44,025 15.2 (14.9, 15.5) -0.6 (-1.1, -0.2)
Texasc 361,823 16.9 (16.8, 17.0) 228,987 15.9 (15.7, 16.0) -0.5 (-0.7, -0.3)
Utahc 26,045 12.5 (12.1, 12.9) 18,455 8.5 (8.1, 8.9) -4.0 (-4.5, -3.4)
Vermont 6,964 13.8 (13.0, 14.7) 4,761 12.9 (11.9, 13.8) -1.1 (-2.3, 0.2)
Virginiac 48,920 21.5 (21.2, 21.9) 39,404 15.8 (15.5, 16.2) -5.3 (-5.9, -4.8)
Washingtonc 78,336 14.9 (14.6, 15.1) 61,000 13.8 (13.6, 14.1) -1.0 (-1.4, -0.6)
West Virginiac 17,669 14.4 (13.9, 14.9) 12,289 16.5 (15.9, 17.2) 2.1 (1.3, 3.0)
Wisconsinc 48,511 15.2 (14.9, 15.5) 35,043 14.4 (14.0, 14.7) -0.6 (-1.1, -0.1)
Wyoming 4,413 11.8 (10.9, 12.8) 3,231 10.6 (9.5, 11.6) -1.3 (-2.7, 0.1)
Territory
American Samoa 3,221 14.6 (13.4, 15.8) 2,590 14.0 (12.7, 15.4) -0.6 (-2.4, 1.2)
Guamc 3,248 11.4 (10.3, 12.5) 3,036 8.5 (7.5, 9.5) -3.0 (-4.4, -1.5)
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islandsc 2,157 14.1 (12.6, 15.6) 1,569 8.7 (7.3, 10.1) -5.4 (-7.5, -3.4)
Puerto Ricoc 70,699 20.3 (20.0, 20.6) 44,857 12.6 (12.3, 12.9) -7.5 (-7.9, -7.1)
US Virgin Islandsc 2,093 12.4 (11.0, 13.8) 1,094 15.1 (13.0, 17.2) 2.7 (0.2, 5.2)
Abbreviation: WIC, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; CI, confidence interval; BMI, body mass index.

a Obesity is defined as BMI at or above the 95th percentile for age and sex on CDC growth charts. Biologically implausible values for weight, height, and BMI were identified and excluded according to their modified z-score. See www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/growthcharts/resources/sas.htm.

b Represents the average marginal effect of year (2018 vs. 2010) as calculated by R’s “margins” package controlling for sex, age, and race or ethnicity. Children with missing information on race or ethnicity were excluded. A negative value indicates that the prevalence decreased.

c Statistically significant difference at the 0.05 level between prevalences in 2010 and 2018 according to logistic regression adjusting for age, sex, and race or ethnicity.

National Trends in Obesity Among Young Children Enrolled in WIC

National obesity trends from 2010 to 2018 among children aged 2 to 4 years from families enrolled in WIC showed the following:

  • In 2018, 14.4% of WIC participants aged 2 to 4 years had obesity. That was a drop from 15.9% in 2010.
  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity combined went down from 32.5% in 2010 to 29.7% in 2018.
  • The largest drops were among 4-year-olds, boys, and children who were Asian or Pacific Islander.
  • The prevalence of obesity in 2018 was higher among young children who were Hispanic (17.2%) and American Indian or Alaska Native (18.8%) than among those who were non-Hispanic White (12.4%), non-Hispanic Black (11.8%), or Asian or Pacific Islander (10.4%).
Prevalence of Overweight or Obesity Among US Children Aged 2 to 4 Years Enrolled in WIC, by Age, Sex, and Race or Ethnicity, 2010–2018
Crude Prevalence, %a (95% CI) 2010 to 2018
2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 Adjusted Prevalence Differenceb
(95% CI)
Overweight or Obesity (BMI at or above the 85th percentile for age and sex on CDC growth charts)
Overall 32.5 (32.5, 32.6) 31.2 (31.1, 31.2) 30.2 (30.1, 30.2) 29.1 (29.1, 29.2) 29.7 (29.6, 29.7) -2.4 (-2.5, -2.3)
Age in years
2 30.2 (30.2, 30.3) 28.6 (28.5, 28.7) 27.5 (27.5, 27.6) 27.1 (27.0, 27.2) 27.6 (27.5, 27.7) -2.3 (-2.4, -2.2)
3 33.4 (33.3, 33.4) 32.0 (31.9, 32.1) 31.1 (31.1, 31.2) 29.7 (29.7, 29.8) 30.5 (30.4, 30.6) -2.5 (-2.6, -2.4)
4 35.2 (35.1, 35.3) 33.9 (33.8, 34.0) 33.2 (33.1, 33.3) 31.7 (31.5, 31.8) 32.1 (32.0, 32.2) -2.6 (-2.8, -2.5)
Sex
Boys 33.5 (33.4, 33.6) 31.8 (31.8, 31.9) 30.9 (30.8, 31.0) 29.6 (29.5, 29.6) 30.1 (30.1, 30.2) -3.0 (-3.1, -2.9)
Girls 31.5 (31.5, 31.6) 30.5 (30.4, 30.5) 29.5 (29.4, 29.6) 28.6 (28.6, 28.7) 29.2 (29.1, 29.3) -1.9 (-2.0, -1.7)
Race or Ethnicity
Non-Hispanic White 28.8 (28.7, 28.9) 27.8 (27.7, 27.9) 27.7 (27.6, 27.8) 27.4 (27.3, 27.5) 27.8 (27.7, 27.9) -0.9 (-1.1, -0.8)
Non-Hispanic Black 27.3 (27.2, 27.4) 26.3 (26.2, 26.4) 25.9 (25.8, 26.0) 25.0 (24.9, 25.1) 25.6 (25.5, 25.7) -1.6 (-1.8, -1.4)
Hispanic 37.2 (37.1, 37.3) 35.5 (35.4, 35.6) 34.0 (33.9, 34.1) 32.6 (32.5, 32.6) 33.4 (33.3, 33.5) -3.6 (-3.7, -3.4)
American Indian or Alaska Native 40.3 (39.8, 40.8) 37.5 (37.0, 37.9) 36.2 (35.7, 36.7) 36.7 (36.2, 37.2) 36.7 (36.2, 37.3) -3.4 (-4.1, -2.7)
Asian or Pacific Islander 26.6 (26.4, 26.9) 25.2 (25.0, 25.5) 24.2 (24.0, 24.4) 22.4 (22.1, 22.6) 22.8 (22.5, 23.0) -3.7 (-4.1, -3.4)
Abbreviation: WIC, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; CI, confidence interval; BMI, body mass index.
a Biologically implausible values for weight, height, and BMI were identified and excluded according to their modified z-score. See www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/growthcharts/resources/sas.htm.
b Represents the average marginal effect of year (2018 vs. 2010) as calculated by R’s “margins” package controlling for sex, age, and race or ethnicity. Children with missing information on race or ethnicity were excluded. P < 0.05 between prevalences in 2010 and 2018 based on logistic regression adjusting for age, sex, and race or ethnicity.
Prevalence of Obesity Among US Children Aged 2 to 4 Years Enrolled in WIC, by Age, Sex, and Race or Ethnicity, 2010–2018
Crude Prevalence,%a (95% CI) 2010 to 2018
2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 Adjusted Prevalence Differenceb
(95% CI)
Obesity (BMI at or above the 95th percentile for age and sex on CDC growth charts)
Overall 15.9 (15.9, 16.0) 15.2 (15.1, 15.2) 14.5 (14.5, 14.6) 13.9 (13.9, 13.9) 14.4 (14.3, 14.4) -1.2 (-1.3, -1.2)
Age in years
2 14.1 (14.0, 14.1) 13.2 (13.1, 13.3) 12.5 (12.4, 12.5) 12.3 (12.2, 12.3) 12.6 (12.6, 12.7) -1.2 (-1.3, -1.1)
3 16.6 (16.6, 16.7) 15.9 (15.8, 15.9) 15.4 (15.3, 15.4) 14.5 (14.5, 14.6) 15.1 (15.1, 15.2) -1.3 (-1.4, -1.2)
4 17.9 (17.8, 18.0) 17.2 (17.1, 17.3) 16.8 (16.7, 16.9) 15.8 (15.7, 15.9) 16.2 (16.1, 16.3) -1.4 (-1.5, -1.2)
Sex
Boys 16.8 (16.7, 16.9) 15.9 (15.8, 15.9) 15.2 (15.1, 15.2) 14.4 (14.3, 14.5) 14.9 (14.8, 15.0) -1.6 (-1.7, -1.5)
Girls 15.0 (14.9, 15.1) 14.4 (14.4, 14.5) 13.9 (13.8, 14.0) 13.4 (13.3, 13.4) 13.8 (13.8, 13.9) -0.9 (-1.0, -0.8)
Race or Ethnicity
Non-Hispanic White 12.8 (12.7, 12.9) 12.4 (12.3, 12.4) 12.2 (12.2, 12.3) 12.1 (12.0, 12.2) 12.4 (12.3, 12.5) -0.4 (-0.5, -0.3)
Non-Hispanic Black 12.7 (12.6, 12.8) 12.1 (12.0, 12.2) 11.9 (11.8, 11.9) 11.4 (11.3, 11.5) 11.8 (11.7, 11.9) -0.8 (-0.9, -0.7)
Hispanic 19.3 (19.2, 19.3) 18.3 (18.2, 18.3) 17.3 (17.3, 17.4) 16.4 (16.4, 16.5) 17.2 (17.1, 17.2) -1.9 (-2.0, -1.8)
American Indian or Alaska Native 20.9 (20.5, 21.3) 18.9 (18.5, 19.2) 18.0 (17.6, 18.3) 18.5 (18.1, 18.9) 18.8 (18.3, 19.2) -2.1 (-2.6, -1.5)
Asian or Pacific Islander 12.5 (12.3, 12.6) 11.7 (11.5, 11.9) 11.1 (10.9, 11.3) 10.0 (9.9, 10.2) 10.4 (10.3, 10.6) -1.9 (-2.2, -1.7)
Abbreviation: WIC, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; CI, confidence interval; BMI, body mass index.

a Biologically implausible values for weight, height, and BMI were identified and excluded according to their modified z-score. See www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/growthcharts/resources/sas.htm.

b Represents the average marginal effect of year (2018 vs. 2010) as calculated by R’s “margins” package controlling for sex, age, and race or ethnicity. Children with missing information on race or ethnicity were excluded. P < 0.05 for prevalences in 2010 and 2018 based on logistic regression adjusting for age, sex, and race or ethnicity.

High Weight–for–Length Among Infants Enrolled in WIC Declined From 2010 to 2018

Infants with high weight for their length are at increased risk of obesity in childhood and early adulthood.

A study published in 2021 external iconfound that, overall, the prevalence of infants aged 3 to 23 months enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) who had high weight–for–length decreased from 14.5% in 2010 to 12.3% in 2014 and then remained stable until 2018 (12.2%). From 2010 to 2018, 33 US states and territories reported a significant drop in high weight–for–length among infants in this age group; 38 states and territories had a significant decline from 2010 to 2014 and 12 states and territories had a significant decline from 2014 to 2018.

For state– and territory–specific information, see Data, Trends, and Maps. Select “WIC 3–23 month olds who have high weight–for–length ” as the indicator.

The study reported the following:

  • High weight–for–length varied across racial and ethnic groups. In 2018, prevalence was the highest among American Indian or Alaska Native infants (16.1%) and the lowest among Asian or Pacific Islander infants (8.5%).
  • Adjusted absolute prevalence differences between 2010 and 2018:
    • By age group, the decrease ranged from 1.5% for infants aged 6 to 11 months to 2.0% for infants aged 3 to 5 months and 12 to 17 months.
    • By sex, the decrease was 2.0% among boys and 1.7% among girls.
    • By race and ethnicity, the decrease ranged from 0.8% for non–Hispanic White infants to 2.7% for Hispanic infants.
Child and Teen Healthy Weight and Obesity. Learn More at www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/resources/child-teen-resources.html
Sample WIC data map

For state– and territory–specific infant information, see Data, Trends, and Maps. Select “WIC 3–23 month olds who have high weight–for–length ” as the indicator.