Professor Amy Ellen Schwartz, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Chair in Public Affairs at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, will present The Impact of Universal Free Meals on Student Outcomes as the speaker at the first biannual Austin Seminar in Education Policy.
The lecture, co-sponsored by the Center for Education Policy Analysis, the Neag School of Education, and the Department of Economics, and presented jointly with the Health, Labor and Development seminar series of the Department of Economics, will be held:
Tuesday, October 25th
3:00 – 4:30 pm
Gentry 142, 144
A reception will follow the seminar.
The Abstract: This paper investigates the academic effects of providing school meals free of charge to all students. Using detailed data on NYC public school students, we estimate the impact of “Universal Free Meals” (UFM) on standardized test scores, participation in school meals, obesity and BMI.
Using a difference in difference design and novel student-level transaction data, we explore the heterogeneity of the impact by student race/ethnicity, poverty, and, critically, prior participation in school lunch. Most important, we find that UFM significantly increases academic performance of middle school students by as much as 0.1 sd, large enough to pass a commonly used threshold for a successful academic intervention.
UFM increases lunch participation by roughly 5.2 percentage points for poor students and larger effects of 13.5 percentage points for non-poor students. Similarly, the effect of UFM is larger for students with low baseline participation, than those with high baseline participation. Finally, we find some evidence of reductions in weight and obesity for non-poor students driven, perhaps, by the better nutritional value of school lunch compared to competitive alternatives.