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
Date Written: February 13, 2019
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: Suggested Citation