Estimating the Effects of Universal Free School Meal Enrollment on Child Health: Evidence from the Community Eligibility Provision in Georgia Schools

48 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2018 Last revised: 17 Feb 2019

See all articles by Will Davis

Will Davis

Georgia State University, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Department of Economics, Students

Tareena Musaddiq

Georgia State University, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Department of Economics

Date Written: February 13, 2019

Abstract

We estimate the effect of providing universal free school meals through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) on the percentage of healthy weight students attending a school and average Body Mass Index (BMI) score among the population of K-12 schools in the state of Georgia. Different specifications of school CEP eligibility are used as instruments for CEP participation in our analysis. We find that CEP participation leads to an increase in the percentage of healthy weight students attending a school and a decrease in average student BMI. Furthermore, we find no statistically significant evidence to support a deleterious effect from CEP participation on our aggregate measures of child weight. Subsample analyses suggest that the effect of CEP participation varies by school grade and location type, with smaller overall effects for schools serving older students and schools in suburbs/towns. We also show that our results are generally robust to different modeling specifications and key variable assumptions. Overall, the beneficial aggregate weight effects caused by CEP participation indicate that providing universal free meals in low-income schools may be a valuable tool in the fight against increasing rates of childhood overweight and obesity.

Keywords: Child health, Obesity, School meals, Community Eligibility Provision

JEL Classification: I38, I14, H75

Suggested Citation

Davis, Will and Musaddiq, Tareena, Estimating the Effects of Universal Free School Meal Enrollment on Child Health: Evidence from the Community Eligibility Provision in Georgia Schools (February 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3155354 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3155354

Will Davis

Georgia State University, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA
United States

Tareena Musaddiq (Contact Author)

Georgia State University, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Department of Economics ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA
United States

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