The Effect of Providing Breakfast on Student Performance: Evidence from an In-Class Breakfast Program
40 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2012 Last revised: 10 Jan 2012
Date Written: January 2012
In response to low take-up, many public schools have experimented with moving breakfast from the cafeteria to the classroom. We examine whether such a program increases performance as measured by standardized test scores, grades and attendance rates. We exploit quasi-random timing of program implementation that allows for a difference-in-differences identification strategy. Our main identification assumption is that schools where the program was introduced earlier would have evolved similarly to those where the program was introduced later. We find that in-class breakfast increases both math and reading achievement by about one-tenth of a standard deviation relative to providing breakfast in the cafeteria. Moreover, we find that these effects are most pronounced for low performing, free-lunch eligible, Hispanic, and low BMI students. We also find some improvements in attendance for high achieving students but no impact on grades.
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