Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sen. Proxmire Rises from the Grave

The late Senator from Wisconsin used to mock government science projects by awarding a "golden fleece" award monthly to the most useless expenditure of government money. Some of his mockery was directed at earmarks, some was earned, some was mistaken.

But I thought of him when I read this summary of research from ERS--funded by them but actually conducted by a private firm. I've bolded the bits which struck me.
"This study investigated factors that influence students’ participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The analysis used recently collected data on a large, nationally representative sample of students certified for free and reduced-price meals during the 2005–06 school year. Results show that, although eligible students are very likely to participate in the programs (i.e. pick up the meal offered that day), eligible elementary school students are more likely to participate than are middle or high school students. Likewise, students who like the taste of the meals are more likely to participate than are students who do not like the taste. In addition, if students now eligible for reduced-price lunches were instead given free lunches, they would participate more than they do now. The same was not strictly the case, however, for breakfast. Finally, the study suggests that analysts should use caution in relying on parents’ reports of a student’s participation to estimate yearly school meal participation. Parental reports of the previous day’s or previous week’s participation tend to overstate participation, which results in higher reported annual participation rates than is true according to administrative data."
I hasten to add I've not read the report and there's value in quantifying the obvious--we know parents don't know what their kids do, but what's the extent of their ignorance?

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