News & Press: Newswire

More Than Half of New York’s School Children Suffer From Economic Disadvantage

Wednesday, December 19, 2018  
Posted by: Jori Figueroa

New Data Show Slight Decline in Poverty as Economic Disadvantage Continues to Grow

By Dr. Andrew Van Alstyne

The Census Department recently released Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) data for 2017. The annual calculation includes estimates of school district level poverty for children ages 5-17. Statewide, the poverty rate fell to 18.5 percent, a 0.9 percentage point decrease over 2016.


Poverty decreased across most need-resource/capacity categories (NRC) of school districts, with the exception of the Big Four city districts, which not only have the highest poverty rate in the state but saw a 2.6 percentage point increase over 2016.


While poverty is a critical challenge, it is not the best measure of economic hardship, because the poverty thresholds are so low. Educators report the need for additional programs and services to educate students living with economic hardship, as well as those living in poverty.  Figure 2 shows the poverty guidelines for 2017, the year covered in the current release. For example, for a family of four, the poverty line was a household income of $24,600. This is why the federal lunch programs and other education policies used expanded measures. Free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL) is available to students up to 130 percent (for free) and 185 percent (for reduced) of the poverty line. In 2017, if a family of four had a household income under $31,980, students would be eligible for free lunch; if the household income was under $45,510, the students would have been eligible for a reduced-price lunch. Figure 3 shows FRPL rates statewide and by need/resource capacity category. FRPL rates are not experiencing declines, even as poverty is decreases slightly.

Figure 2. 2017 Poverty Guidelines by Household Size

Household Size

2

3

4

5

6

$16,240

$20,420

$24,600

$28,780

$32,960

 

Figure 3. Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Rate for K-12 students by NRC

Poverty rates were high and increasing in Finger Lakes and Western regions of the state.  Economic disadvantage was highest and increasing in the Mohawk Valley, New York City and the North Country  regions. (See Appendix.)


Conclusion

The overall decline in poverty rates is an unequivocally positive change for students and schools. However, nearly one-in-five New York students lives below this very low poverty threshold. While poverty is falling slightly, overall economic hardship, as measured by eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch, has been slowly growing.  More than half of New York students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. This has implications for educators and policymakers focused on ensuring that all students have access to a meaningful education.



Appendix: SAIPE and FRPL Rates by State Region

Region

2017 SAIPE Rate

One-Year Change

Five-Year Change

Capital District

12.8%

-0.4%

-1.7%

Central Region

18.0%

0.2%

-0.6%

Finger Lakes

19.0%

1.3%

1.3%

Hudson Valley

13.4%

-0.7%

-0.9%

Long Island

7.6%

-0.9%

-1.0%

Mohawk Valley

21.6%

-0.7%

-0.4%

New York City

24.6%

-1.7%

-6.0%

North Country

20.3%

0.2%

-1.6%

Southern Tier

17.6%

-1.9%

-1.7%

Western Region

19.5%

1.4%

-0.6%



Region

2017 FRPL Rate

One-Year Change

Five-Year Change

Capital District

37.3%

0.6%

4.1%

Central Region

47.4%

1.4%

7.4%

Finger Lakes

44.2%

1.4%

3.6%

Hudson Valley

36.9%

-0.1%

4.2%

Long Island

32.5%

0.3%

6.2%

Mohawk Valley

54.3%

0.6%

4.6%

New York City

51.2%

0.3%

2.8%

North Country

49.8%

0.4%

5.9%

Southern Tier

46.4%

2.2%

2.7%

Western Region

37.3%

0.6%

4.1%