School poverty: All youth should attend economically diverse, well-resourced schools.
Insights & Analyses
Students of color have remained more likely to attend high-poverty schools than White students for the past decade. This disparity is most extreme in primary schools.
Mississippi has had the highest proportion of Black students in high-poverty schools out of all states since 2000. In 2020, 73 percent of Black students in the state attended high-poverty schools compared to just 27 percent of White students.
White students are least likely to attend high-poverty schools out of all racial and ethnic groups, and Asian American students are most likely to attend low-poverty schools.
While Latino students were more likely to attend high-poverty schools than Black students in 2000, Black students are now slightly more likely to attend high-poverty schools.
Drivers of Inequity
Despite the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v Board of Education of Topeka that banned racial segregation, students of color remain far more likely to attend high-poverty schools than White students. Racial segregation in the United States was forged through historical practices such as racially exclusive housing covenants and zoning laws as well as ongoing ones such as discriminatory hiring and mortgage lending. These practices dispossessed communities of color and excluded them from economic prosperity while White communities have accumulated wealth. The resulting geographic concentrations of wealth and poverty cause students of color to attend high-poverty schools at much higher rates than White students.
Grow an equitable economy: Policies to help all youth succeed
- Preserve and expand affordable housing in neighborhoods with high-performing schools through proactive policies (such as inclusionary zoning), enforcing fair housing laws, and dismantling exclusionary land-use policies.
- Provide a quality education for every child, especially those in underresourced neighborhoods.
- Support children who attend high-poverty schools through cradle-to-career strategies that equip them with the educational, health, and social supports they need to succeed and target teacher recruitment to help retain highly qualified teachers for hard-to-staff schools.
- Implement equitable growth policies that reduce poverty and increase the economic security of low-income families with children by connecting people with employment in good jobs.
- Implement local and inter-district measures to increase school integration and reduce racial isolation.
- At the federal level, institute a federal jobs guarantee, enact a $15/hour minimum wage for all workers, set aside a share of public contracts for businesses owned by people of color to mirror area demographics, and reform the Community Reinvestment Act to expand access to fair financial products and services for entrepreneurs of color.
Strategy in Action
Montgomery County's inclusionary zoning policy improves student outcomes. Located just outside of Washington, DC, Montgomery County is home to the oldest continuously operating inclusionary zoning program. Begun in 1974 to address the need for workforce housing, the policy requires housing developers to set aside 12 percent of new homes at below-market rates and allow the public housing authority to purchase a portion of these units. In 2018, the county began to require developers to set aside at least 15 percent of homes in affluent neighborhoods. The policy has generated over 15,000 affordable housing units and resulted in thousands of low-income children attending low-poverty schools in their neighborhoods. Evaluations find that the students who attend these schools show significant improvements in school achievement compared to their counterparts in moderate- to high-poverty schools, demonstrating how good housing policy is good school policy. Learn more.
- Reports: Disrupting the Reciprocal Relationship Between Housing and School Segregation; Building Community Schools Systems: Removing Barriers to Success in U.S. Public Schools; Strengthening Our Public Schools; U.S. Minority Students Concentrated in High-Poverty Schools: Study
- Data: DiversityDataKids.org; KIDS COUNT; Understanding Teacher Shortages: 2018 Update; The Opportunity Atlas; Explore Your School’s Changing Demographics