Long-Term Effects of Childhood Nutrition : Evidence from a School Lunch Reform
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The paper examines the long-term impact of a policy that introduced free and nutritious school lunches in Swedish primary schools. For this purpose, the authors use historical data on the gradual implementation of the policy across municipalities and employ a difference- in-differences design to estimate the impact of this lunch policy on a broad range of medium and longterm outcomes, including lifetime income, health, cognitive skills, and education. The results show that the school lunch program generated substantial long-term benefits, where pupils exposed to the program during their entire primary school period have 3 percent greater life-time earnings. In addition, they find the effect to be greater for pupils that were exposed at earlier ages and for pupils from poor households. Finally, exposure to the school lunch program had substantial effects on educational attainment and health and these effects can explain a large part of the return to school lunches.