Not just for poor kids: The impact of universal free school breakfast on meal participation and student outcomes

Jacob Leos-Urbel, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Meryle Weinstein, Sean Corcoran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of the implementation of a universal free school breakfast policy on meals program participation, attendance, and academic achievement. In 2003, New York City made school breakfast free for all students regardless of income, while increasing the price of lunch for those ineligible for meal subsidies. Using a difference-in-difference estimation strategy, we derive plausibly causal estimates of the policy's impact by exploiting within and between group variation in school meal pricing before and after the policy change. Our estimates suggest that the policy resulted in small increases in breakfast participation both for students who experienced a decrease in the price of breakfast and for free-lunch eligible students who experienced no price change. The latter suggests that universal provision may alter behavior through mechanisms other than price, highlighting the potential merits of universal provision over targeted services. We find limited evidence of policy impacts on academic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-107
Number of pages20
JournalEconomics of Education Review
Volume36
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Child poverty policy
  • School finance
  • School meals program
  • Universal service provision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Economics and Econometrics

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