The panel concluded that the definition of an economic unit should allow for multiple units within a household, as provided in the Eligibility Manual for School Meals.24 This judgment eliminated EU5 as our preferred definition. We further concluded that ACS variables pertaining to SNAP participation and the receipt of public assistance income should be used to account for categorical eligibility for free meals. We also concluded that if a household has no unrelated adult besides an unmarried partner, a reasonable assumption is to assign unrelated children to the primary economic unit. This judgment eliminated EU1 and EU2 as our preferred definition, leaving only EU3 and EU4. The only difference between these two measures is the treatment of unrelated children when unrelated adults other than an unmarried partner are present in the household. To assume that none of these adults is economically related to the children (EU3) did not seem to be a reasonable assumption. Consequently, the panel concluded that of the alternative definitions examined, EU4 should be adopted for determining eligibility for school meals. The panel realizes that this assignment rule is subject to potential errors. One type of error will occur when an unmarried partner and other unrelated adults are both present. EU4 will assign the unrelated children to the other unrelated adults to form a secondary economic unit when they may really be children of the unmarried partner and should be assigned to the primary family. A second type of error is the aggregation of all unrelated adults and children into a single secondary economic unit when more than one secondary unit should be formed. A third type of error is considering all related individuals in a household as members of the same economic unit. It is possible, for example, that in some households, a family may live as a separate economic unit in the same household as one set of parents.


24 U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food and Nutrition Service (2011:37).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement