dations that should be considered even if the AEO is not implemented. These recommendations address some of the challenges associated with survey and administrative data that the panel encountered in conducting its analyses.
One set of recommendations entails research activities that could improve ACS estimates for all uses, particularly those that require estimating whether low-income individuals are eligible for benefits under various assistance programs, such as the school meals programs. In addition to research to assess the quality of the panel’s definition of “economic unit” for use in determining eligibility for free and reduced-price meals with the ACS, the panel recommends that the policy research community and the Census Bureau continue to investigate the causes of and solutions for not only the underreporting of income and program benefits, but also the differences in program eligibility estimates based on monthly and annual income.
Another set of recommendations entails research and other activities by FNS, the Census Bureau, and the National Center for Education Statistics that would improve the quality and availability of data pertaining to the school meals programs. These recommendations include annual production and dissemination of district-level ACS estimates of total enrollment and percentages of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals according to the panel’s specifications (as revised based on further research); improvements in the quality and comparability of administrative data on enrollment and certification in the school meals programs; improvements in the quality, comparability, and availability of administrative data on participation in the school meals programs; and a feasibility assessment of developing a program for the periodic collection of data on the administrative costs of operating the school meals programs.
This report presents and describes in detail the panel’s analyses and findings; the AEO developed by the panel; and the panel’s recommendations for facilitating implementation of the AEO, improving the accuracy of ACS estimates of eligibility for the school meals programs, and enhancing the quality and availability of survey and administrative data for a broad range of uses. If implemented, the AEO would provide an opportunity to expand access to free meals for the nation’s schoolchildren and reduce administrative burden on schools and families.