Not Just for Poor Kids: The Impact of Universal Free School Breakfast on Meal Participation and Student Outcomes

39 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2011

See all articles by Meryle Weinstein

Meryle Weinstein

Independent

Amy Ellen Schwartz

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research; New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jacob Leos-Urbel

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy

Sean P. Corcoran

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy

Date Written: September 7, 2011

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of the adoption of a universal free breakfast policy on student breakfast participation, attendance, and academic achievement. We examine a 2003 New York City policy change that made school breakfast free for all students regardless of income while increasing the price of lunch for those who pay full price. 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. We conduct school-level analyses of the policy’s impact on breakfast participation, and student-level analyses to explore the impact on attendance and test scores.

Our estimates suggest that universal free breakfast increased 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, perhaps through a decrease in stigma, highlighting the potential merits of universal provision over and above targeted services. Our analysis also suggests that the policy change had a small positive effect on attendance for black and Asian students.

Suggested Citation

Weinstein, Meryle and Schwartz, Amy Ellen and Leos-Urbel, Jacob and Corcoran, Sean P., Not Just for Poor Kids: The Impact of Universal Free School Breakfast on Meal Participation and Student Outcomes (September 7, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1923972 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1923972

Meryle Weinstein (Contact Author)

Independent

No Address Available

Amy Ellen Schwartz

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy ( email )

United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jacob Leos-Urbel

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy ( email )

United States

Sean P. Corcoran

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy ( email )

United States

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