The number of high-poverty schools increases by about 60 percent

Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as as a “high-poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S.  Department of Education. To win this unwelcome designation, 75 percent or more of an elementary, middle or high school’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That’s about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools!

This  figure was part of a large data report, The Condition of Education 2013, released by the National Center for Education Statistics on May 23, 2013.  There’s a lot to chew on in it. But school poverty jumped out at me as a really depressing data point showing the growing income inequality in America.

Qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch is an imperfect measure of poverty.  A mother with two kids who makes under $35,000 a year would be in this group.  Certainly, that’s poor family in New York City, but maybe not destitute in Utah. I’ve also heard that many poor families feel that it is such a stigma to accept a discounted or free lunch that they don’t sign up for the program. So the poverty rates in many schools are probably much higher than the official statistics say they are.

Here is the chart of income thresholds to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.


POSTED BY Jill Barshay ON May 29, 2013

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[…] Number of High-Poverty Schools Increases by about 60 Percent Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as a “high-poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S.  Department of Education. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty.  Hechinger Report […]

Randy Bomer

You’re right that free and reduced lunch is not a great measure of poverty, and you’re right that the reason for that is the requirement of self-reporting, which often makes it under-reported, especially in high schools, where the kids don’t bring the forms back to school. That is, poverty is worse than these figures indicate.

But your point about $35,000 is not quite right. Across the country, anything below $45,000 is low-income according to the census bureau. To break this down even better, you could look at the living wage calculator here: http://livingwage.mit.edu/places/4903567000 . That particular page actually shows Salt Lake City, Utah, and there, an adult with two children would actually require $47,538 to make the bills this year. In Queens, NY, the number would be $67,178, so you’re right that NYC is more expensive, but neither mom is getting by on $35,000.

Thanks for calling people’s attention to these very important poverty numbers!

Disagree with you

I would think if anything there is more over reporting than under because unscrupulous parents check the low income box on registration day just so they can receive free meals and textbooks…

Jill Barshay

@Randy Bomer Thank you for correcting me about living wages in Utah. Come to think of it, it was really expensive to go skiing there this past winter. :)

[…] Click here to post, the chart,  and the comments via Education By The Numbers | The number of high-poverty schools increases by about 60 percent. […]

leolabeth

That 60 percent jump should be front page news, all day, every day, until we seriously address it.

Every time we discuss some new model, the Common Core, the success or failure of schools, the real issue is poverty. What makes my head explode are the thousands of CC consultants and digital learning gurus who rake in the dollars while way too many students lose their focus because schools cannot possibly make up for crumbling socio-economic strata.

May 31 | tigersteach

[…] of Education 2013.”  This brief article has a link to the full report (241 pages):  http://educationbythenumbers.org/content/the-number-of-high-poverty-schools-increases-by-about-60-pe…    Know what a MOOC is?  That’s a “massive open online course” and the number […]

[…] Available at: http://educationbythenumbers.org/content/the-number-of-high-poverty-schools-increases-by-about-60-pe… […]

[…] (CBS) – Jill Barshay in a Hechinger Report blog, discusses the concentration of high poverty in […]

Shauna Rodriguez

@Randy Bomber I think your absolutely correct. I work in an urban high school and the majority of the students do not return their forms and there is no way to enforce this. Poverty is indeed more rampant. Many undocumented families fail to return their forms out of fear because they do not have valid social security numbers.
@Leolabeth I also agree; the bigger issue here is poverty itself. We cannot put a “band aid” on a situation by expecting schools to fix a problem that is based on the systematic exclusion of the poor.

[…] for BTS, what about the children in families stuck in poverty or not working at all? According to The Hechinger Report, poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools is classified as […]

[…] The number of high-poverty schools increases by about 60 percent […]

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