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The impact of Chile's school feeding program on education outcomes


  • McEwan, Patrick J.


Chile operates one of the oldest and largest school feeding programs in Latin America, targeting higher-calorie meals to relatively poorer schools. This paper evaluates the impact of higher-calorie meals on the education outcomes of public, rural schools and their students. It applies a regression-discontinuity design to administrative data, including school enrollment and attendance, first-grade enrollment age and grade repetition, and fourth-grade test scores. There is no evidence, across a range of specifications and samples, that additional calories affect these variables. The paper suggests that the focus of Chilean policy should further shift to the nutritional composition of school meals, rather than the caloric content.

Suggested Citation

  • McEwan, Patrick J., 2013. "The impact of Chile's school feeding program on education outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 122-139.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:32:y:2013:i:c:p:122-139 DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2012.08.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Belot, Michèle & James, Jonathan, 2011. "Healthy school meals and educational outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 489-504, May.
    2. Patrick McEwan, 2008. "Can Schools Reduce the Indigenous Test Score Gap? Evidence from Chile," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(10), pages 1506-1530.
    3. Jayanta Bhattacharya & Janet Currie & Steven J. Haider, 2006. "Breakfast of Champions?: The School Breakfast Program and the Nutrition of Children and Families," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(3).
    4. Musgrove, Philip, 1993. "Feeding Latin America's Children," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 8(1), pages 23-45, January.
    5. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
    6. Hanan G. Jacoby, 2002. "Is There an Intrahousehold "Flypaper Effect"? Evidence From a School Feeding Programme," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 196-221, January.
    7. Figlio, David N. & Winicki, Joshua, 2005. "Food for thought: the effects of school accountability plans on school nutrition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 381-394, February.
    8. Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola & Emiliana Vegas, 2008. "School Choice, Stratification, and Information on School Performance: Lessons from Chile," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Spring 20), pages 1-42, January.
    9. Harounan Kazianga & Damien de Walque & Harold Alderman, 2009. "Educational and Health Impacts of Two School Feeding Schemes: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Rural Burkina Faso," Economics Working Paper Series 0904, Oklahoma State University, Department of Economics and Legal Studies in Business.
    10. Afridi, Farzana, 2010. "Child welfare programs and child nutrition: Evidence from a mandated school meal program in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(2), pages 152-165, July.
    11. Patrick J. McEwan & Joseph S. Shapiro, 2008. "The Benefits of Delayed Primary School Enrollment: Discontinuity Estimates Using Exact Birth Dates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
    12. Glewwe, Paul & Jacoby, Hanan G, 1995. "An Economic Analysis of Delayed Primary School Enrollment in a Low Income Country: The Role of Early Childhood Nutrition," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(1), pages 156-169, February.
    13. Peter Hinrichs, 2010. "The effects of the National School Lunch Program on education and health," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(3), pages 479-505.
    14. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2009. "Do School Lunches Contribute to Childhood Obesity?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
    15. Farzana Afridi, 2010. "The Impact of school meals on school participation: Evidence from rural India," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 10-02, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.
    16. Adelman, Sarah W. & Gilligan, Daniel O. & Lehrer, Kim, 2008. "How effective are food for education programs?: A critical assessment of the evidence from developing countries," Food policy reviews 9, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    17. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
    18. Janet Currie, 2003. "U.S. Food and Nutrition Programs," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 199-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Donald Bundy & Carmen Burbano & Margaret Grosh & Aulo Gelli & Matthew Jukes & Lesley Drake, 2009. "Rethinking School Feeding Social Safety Nets, Child Development, and the Education Sector," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2634.
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    Cited by:

    1. Figlio, D. & Karbownik, K. & Salvanes, K.G., 2016. "Education Research and Administrative Data," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    2. Chakraborty, Tanika & Jayaraman, Rajshri, 2016. "School Feeding and Learning Achievement: Evidence from India's Midday Meal Program," IZA Discussion Papers 10086, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Hochfeld, Tessa & Graham, Lauren & Patel, Leila & Moodley, Jacqueline & Ross, Eleanor, 2016. "Does school breakfast make a difference? An evaluation of an in-school breakfast programme in South Africa," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 1-9.
    4. Frisvold, David E., 2015. "Nutrition and cognitive achievement: An evaluation of the School Breakfast Program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 91-104.
    5. Leos-Urbel, Jacob & Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Weinstein, Meryle & Corcoran, Sean, 2013. "Not just for poor kids: The impact of universal free school breakfast on meal participation and student outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 88-107.
    6. Oosterbeek, Hessel & van der Klaauw, Bas, 2013. "Ramadan, fasting and educational outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 219-226.
    7. Tanika Chakraborty & Rajshri Jayaraman, 2016. "School Feeding and Learning Achievement: Evidence from India's Midday Meal Program," CESifo Working Paper Series 5994, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item


    Chile; School feeding programs; Regression-discontinuity; Impact evaluation;

    JEL classification:

    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs


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