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Public school students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch

Question:
What information do you have on public school students who are eligible free or reduced-price lunch?

Response:

The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) under the National School Lunch Program provides a proxy measure for the concentration of low-income students within a school.1 In this Fast Fact, public schools (including both traditional and charter) are divided into categories by FRPL eligibility. High-poverty schools are defined as public schools where more than 75.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL, and mid-high poverty schools as those where 50.1 to 75.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL. Low-poverty schools are defined as public schools where 25.0 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL, and mid-low poverty schools as those where 25.1 to 50.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL. In school year 201415, some 20 percent of public school students attended low-poverty schools, and 24 percent of public school students attended high-poverty schools.

While the overall percentages of public school students in low- and high-poverty schools were similar (20 and 24 percent, respectively), they varied by race/ethnicity. In school year 201415, the percentages of Asian students (37 percent), White students (29 percent), and students of Two or more races (23 percent) who attended low-poverty schools were higher than the national average (20 percent), while the percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native (12 percent), Pacific Islander (12 percent), Hispanic (8 percent), and Black (7 percent) students who attended low-poverty schools were lower than the national average. In contrast, the percentages of Hispanic (46 percent), Black (45 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (33 percent), and Pacific Islander students (25 percent) who attended high-poverty schools were higher than the national average (24 percent), while the percentages of students of Two or more races (17 percent), Asian students (15 percent), and White students (8 percent) who attended high-poverty schools were lower than the national average.

1 For more information on eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch and its relationship to poverty, see NCES blog post "Free or reduced price lunch: A proxy for poverty?"


Percentage of public school students in low-poverty and high-poverty schools, by race/ethnicity: School year 201415

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

NOTE: High-poverty schools are defined as public schools where more than 75.0 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL), and low-poverty schools are defined as public schools where 25.0 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL. For more information on eligibility for FRPL and its relationship to poverty, see NCES blog post "Free or reduced price lunch: A proxy for poverty?" Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.


The distribution of public schools at different poverty concentrations varied by school locale (i.e., city, suburb, town, or rural). In school year 201415, a majority of students attending city (67 percent) and town (59 percent) schools were in a high-poverty or mid-high poverty school while a majority of students attending suburban (60 percent) and rural (52 percent) schools were in a low-poverty or mid-low poverty school.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). The Condition of Education 2017 (NCES 2017-144), Concentration of Public School Students Eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch .

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