NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Elizabeth Ramirez Ritchie

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Working Papers

March 2017School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance
with Michael L. Anderson, Justin Gallagher: w23218
Improving the nutritional content of public school meals is a topic of intense policy interest. A main motivation is the health of school children, and, in particular, the rising childhood obesity rate. Medical and nutrition literature has long argued that a healthy diet can have a second important impact: improved cognitive function. In this paper, we test whether offering healthier lunches affects student achievement as measured by test scores. Our sample includes all California (CA) public schools over a five-year period. We estimate difference-in-difference style regressions using variation that takes advantage of frequent lunch vendor contract turnover. Students at schools that contract with a healthy school lunch vendor score higher on CA state achievement tests, with larger test sco...

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