Does the Provision of Universal Free School Meals Improve School Attendance and Behaviour?

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Abstract

The importance of universal free school meals (UFSM) provision has been the subject of significant debate over the past decade. In this study we examine the effect of UFSM policies on school attendance, health-related absence and students’ misbehaviour. We leverage UFSM implementation in Scotland where all pupils in the first three grades of primary schools became automatically entitled to claim free meals, regardless of their households’ financial circumstances. We estimate a difference-in-differences model with variation in treatment intensity and find, in spite of a large increase in uptakes, that attendance and school discipline have not improved significantly. These estimates are close to zero and precisely estimated. We also show that effect heterogeneity does not explain the null effect.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherUniversity of Strathclyde
Pages1-54
Number of pages56
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • attendance
  • behaviour
  • school meals
  • welfare
  • f universal free school meals (UFSM)

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