Panel Paper: The Changing Distribution of Low-Income Students across American Public Schools

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Marriott Balcony B - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dave Marcotte and Kari Dalane, American University

We document and examine trends in the concentration of low income students in schools separate from the schools attended by higher income students in the United States between 1995 and 2015. Using school-level data from the Common Core of Data (CCD), we document changes in the proportion of free-lunch eligible (FLE) students. We then examine changes in measures of inequality and segregation in the distribution of FLE students across schools within states and school-districts within states. We expand on the work of Owen, Reardon and Jencks by explicitly including charter schools in our analyses and by expanding the length of the panel. Charter schools have expanded rapidly over this period. We assess whether growth of charter schools within districts has affected socioeconomic segregation at the district level, and then within traditional public schools in districts with relatively rapid charter growth. We find increases in the dispersion of FLE eligibility rates over the period, with the largest increases among middle- and high schools. We examine state-level changes in the distribution of low-income students across schools on achievement for FLE eligible students using math and reading assessments for 4th and 8th grade students from the NAEP.