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The Effect of Providing Breakfast on Student Performance: Evidence from an In-Class Breakfast Program


  • Scott A. Imberman
  • Adriana D. Kugler


In response to low take-up, many public schools have experimented with moving breakfast from the cafeteria to the classroom. We examine whether such a program increases performance as measured by standardized test scores, grades and attendance rates. We exploit quasi-random timing of program implementation that allows for a difference-in-differences identification strategy. Our main identification assumption is that schools where the program was introduced earlier would have evolved similarly to those where the program was introduced later. We find that in-class breakfast increases both math and reading achievement by about one-tenth of a standard deviation relative to providing breakfast in the cafeteria. Moreover, we find that these effects are most pronounced for low performing, free-lunch eligible, Hispanic, and low BMI students. We also find some improvements in attendance for high achieving students but no impact on grades.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott A. Imberman & Adriana D. Kugler, 2012. "The Effect of Providing Breakfast on Student Performance: Evidence from an In-Class Breakfast Program," NBER Working Papers 17720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17720
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harold Alderman & John Hoddinott & Bill Kinsey, 2006. "Long term consequences of early childhood malnutrition," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 450-474, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Udichibarna Bose & Ronald MacDonald & Serafeim Tsoukas, 2014. "Policy initiatives and firms access to external finance: Evidence from a panel of emerging Asian economies," Working Papers 2015_01, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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