Summary: The percentage of students attending public elementary and secondary schools by school poverty level. The year indicated is the latest of a given school year (e.g. 2010 refers to the 2009-2010 school year). School poverty levels are defined by the share of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch (FRPL) and include: "Low" (less than 25% FRPL), "Mid-low" (25-50% FRPL), "Mid-high" (50-75% FRPL), and "High" (greater than 75% FRPL).
Data Source(s): National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey.
Universe: All students attending public schools.
Methods: The share of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch (FRPL) was calculated at the school level for all public elementary and secondary schools. Schools were then classified into four groups—school poverty level categories—based on this share (low, mid-low, mid-high, and high), and the number and shares of students by school poverty level category were aggregated to the various Atlas geographies for each racial/ethnic group. For the vast majority of schools, the total student count is consistent with the sum of the counts by race/ethnicity. For a small number of schools, however, it is slightly higher given that the latter excludes any students belonging to an unknown or non-CCD race category. For this reason, data for all racial/ethnic groups combined (the "All" category) reported in the Atlas is based on the sum of student counts by race/ethnicity.
It is important to note that the measure of school poverty used, the share of students eligible for FRPL, is not always reported and is subject to some degree of error at the school level. The reasons for this include the fact that the count of students deemed FRPL-eligible may be taken at a different time than the total student count, and in some states, a single school may administer the free lunch program for a group of schools (in which case its count and share of FRPL-eligible students would be overstated). However, it is likely that any bias caused by these inconsistencies in reporting at the school level are largely mitigated once the data is aggregated across the many schools in a given Atlas geography. It is also important to note that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 changed eligibility requirements and this can impact comparability of the school poverty data over time. In particular, the Act introduced the Community Eligibility Option (CEO), available in 11 states (including the District of Columbia) by the 2013-14 school year and in all states in the 2014-15 school year, which allows more children to be eligible for FRPL.
Given the prevalence of missing data for some schools and changes to eligibility requirements in recent years, we took precautions to avoid reporting data that are inaccurate or misleading. First, we do not report school poverty information if ten percent or more of the relevant student population attends schools that do not report valid (non-missing) FRPL eligibility data. Second, after making an initial calculation of the overall share of students eligible for FRPL based on available data for the 2009–10 through 2013–14 schools years, we examined changes in this measure over time for all 301 Atlas geographies and noted any dramatic year-to-year changes. School poverty data for a handful of Atlas geographies in certain years were set to missing based on this examination. See the methodology page for other relevant notes.
- Latinos include people of Hispanic origin of any race and all other groups exclude people of Hispanic origin.
- Data are not reported if 10 percent or more of the relevant student population attends schools that do not report valid (non-missing) FRPL eligibility data.
- The year indicated is the latest of a given school year (e.g. 2010 refers to the 2009-2010 school year).