Free Lunch for All! The Effect of the Community Eligibility Provision on Academic Outcomes

47 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2019 Last revised: 11 Nov 2019

See all articles by John Gordanier

John Gordanier

University of South Carolina

Orgul D. Ozturk

University of South Carolina - Moore School of Business - Department of Economics

Breyon Williams

University of South Carolina - Department of Economics

Crystal Zhan

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business

Date Written: February 13, 2019

Abstract

We analyze the effect of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a universal free-lunch program, on elementary and middle school students’ academic performance and attendance in the state of South Carolina. As part of the program, eligible schools can provide free lunches to all students, regardless of whether an individual student qualifies for free or reduced lunch. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we show that CEP leads to about 0.06 of a standard deviation increase in math test scores for elementary school students. We find smaller effects on reading scores and on middle school students. These effects also vary by student poverty, school poverty, and locality. In particular, we find students that were previously eligible for free lunches but not on other public assistance programs benefit the most from CEP. The results may suggest that the expansion of access to free lunch help improve students' academic outcomes.

Keywords: School Meals, Academic Performance, CEP, Free Lunch, Poverty

JEL Classification: I24, I38, H52

Suggested Citation

Gordanier, John and Ozturk, Orgul D. and Williams, Breyon and Zhan, Crystal, Free Lunch for All! The Effect of the Community Eligibility Provision on Academic Outcomes (February 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3333530 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3333530

John Gordanier

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Orgul D. Ozturk (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Moore School of Business - Department of Economics ( email )

The Francis M. Hipp Building
1705 College Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Breyon Williams

University of South Carolina - Department of Economics ( email )

Columbia, SC
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.breyononline.com

Crystal Zhan

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business ( email )

1705 College St
Francis M. Hipp Building
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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