Peer Effects in Free School Meals: Information or stigma?
Title: Peer Effects in Free School Meals: Information or stigma?
Author: JAMES, Jonathan
Series/Report no.: EUI MWP; 2012/11
This paper investigates peer effects in the take up of a welfare programme, free school meals, using the Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) which collects data on every child attending school in England. To explore the nature of the peer effect, I examine two potential channels: stigma, and information. To disentangle these channels I first exploit the fact that in a number of schools cashless catering systems have been implemented which remove the stigma associated with claiming the benefit; to investigate the impact of this innovation, telephone interviews were conducted with over 400 schools to ascertain whether and when such systems had been introduced. Second, I test whether information plays a role by comparing the peer effect for those who have claimed in previous years with those who have not. The results suggest the presence of stigma dampens the peer effect and information makes it larger. Information is found to be a more important part of the peer effect for those living in areas of greater deprivation and stigma is more important for those in the least deprived regions. The policy implication of this is that in areas of greater deprivation information campaigns will have a greater marginal impact than those that attempt to remove visible stigma.
Subject: Stigma; peer effects; free school meals; ethnicity; language
Type of Access: openAccess