Income & School Quality: Poor Kids Losing Out

Upward mobility and education are inextricably linked. Education is one of the few vehicles poor kids have to improve their circumstances in life. But research from our NYC Equality Indicators study finds kids living in bottom 20% median income Census tracks are going to schools rated less than proficient (35.7% of schools in these tracts are rated less than proficient). This is in comparison to kids in the top 20% income tracts (just 19.2% of those schools are rated less than proficient).

The disadvantages kids from low-income households face are manifold. Our Equality Indicators research finds kids whose parents have less than a high school diploma are considerably more likely not to participate in arts activities in or out of school (41.9%) than those of parents with a professional/graduate degree (25.3%). Enriched arts/cultural experiences aid in academic achievement yet these are exactly the experiences poor kids lack access to.

Academic achievement is now closely aligned with parents’ income level and a strong predictor of student success as documented by Stanford research. In education circles, there is much discussion about the growing chasm between poor and affluent students’ achievement levels, leading to books like Teaching With Poverty In Mind.

With the cards stacked against low-income students, it would be reasonable to assume funding levels would be higher in poor school districts, but that is exactly the opposite of what is happening.

According to a recent report by Education Trust, the highest poverty districts across the United States receive about $1,200 less per student than the lowest poverty districts.

Until more equitable of funding of high poverty school districts happens, it is unfair to ask poor students to use education to pull themselves out of poverty.