Almost 300,000 entitled children do not participate in the UK's Free School Meals (FSM) programme, worth up to £400 per year. Welfare take-up can be stigma and lack of information. This paper uses a school-level dataset and fixed-effect instrumental variables strategy to show that peer-group participation has a substantial role in overcoming these barriers. Identification of endogenous peer effects is achieved by exploiting a scheme which extended FSM entitlement to all children in some school cohorts. Results show that in a typical school a 10 percentage point rise in peer-group take-up would reduce non-participation by almost a quarter.
school meals peer effects welfare stigma aggregated data