The Impact of Maternal Labor Supply on Children's School Meal Participation

by Ashlesha Datar, Nancy Nicosia

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A less recognized benefit of school meal programs is their potential to alleviate time constraints among families with working mothers. This paper examines how maternal labor supply decisions influence children's participation in these programs. Instrumental variables estimates suggest that children whose mothers work are more likely to participate in school lunch, but less likely to participate in school breakfast. Moreover, these families are more likely to eat breakfast together, which suggests that working mothers may view breakfast as an opportunity to spend time with their children. These results are qualitatively similar across full-and part-time work status and various socio-economic groups.

The research report was prepared for the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and conducted by RAND Health.

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