There’s no such thing as a free lunch : altruistic parents and the response of household food expenditures to nutrition program reforms

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Title: There’s no such thing as a free lunch : altruistic parents and the response of household food expenditures to nutrition program reforms
Authors: Bingley, Paul
Walker, Ian
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Date: 12-Jun-2007
Abstract: Many countries provide extensive in-kind public transfers for specific needs of particular client groups such as the elderly, the disabled, and children. However, this may crowd out private expenditures on the goods in question and, to some extent, undermine the case for not simply giving cash. If the target group belongs to a larger household the mechanism behind this crowding out could be either altruism or agency. This paper is concerned with three nutrition programmes for children in UK households: free lunch at school for children from poor households; free milk to poor households with pre-school children; and free milk at day-care for pre-school children in attendance regardless of parental income. We exploit a reform that removed eligibility to the first two programs from working poor households. We find significant crowding-out of private food expenditures – a free school lunch reduces food expenditure by around 15% of the purchase price of the lunch, and a free pint of milk reduces milk expenditure by about 80% of the market price. We conclude that this is due to altruism rather than agency problems because milk expenditure crowd-out is similar across milk programs that have different delivery mechanisms.
Funding Details: Danish Social Science Research Council
Education Research Section, Princeton University
Economic and Social Research Council
Type of material: Working Paper
Publisher: University College Dublin. Geary Institute
Series/Report no.: UCD Geary Institute Discussion Paper Series; WP2007/19
Keywords: In-kind transfersProgram participationAltruismAgency
Subject LCSH: Public welfare
School children--Food--Great Britain
Milk programs--Great Britain
Home economics--Accounting
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Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Geary Institute Working Papers

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