Do Most Kids in American Public Schools Live in Poverty?  



Yet another study highlights the decline of the standard of living of the 99%. This time it’s got to do with kids, and I have a few reservations about how the mainstream reports this. The bad news is that, according to the mainstream at least, the majority of kids in public schools now live in poverty. The study was conducted by the Southern Education Foundation, which had used using data that showed the number of public school children who qualified for free or reduced-price school meals to reach their stunning conclusion.


For the very first time since this statistic was calculated, 51% of students now live in “poverty”, or 74.5 million kids in America.


The authors of the study noted the increasing trend from 1989, when a much smaller 32% of students had qualified for the subsidized meals. By the year 2000, this number was 38%. By 2013, it had risen by another 13%.


No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness,” the Southern Education Foundation report stated “,their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future.”


Students only qualify for free meals if their family are also on benefit programs, or if household income is below 135% of the poverty level. Subsidized meals are served to kids who come from households below 185% of the poverty level. This brings me to the reservations I had mentioned earlier.


Although this is clearly a deplorable state of affairs, and indeed increasing numbers of kids are living in poverty, the majority of children going to public schools are NOT living in poverty (at least not yet); a large proportion of kids who are being subsidized may come from families that fall between the 100%-185% threshold. In other words, these children live in near-poverty conditions, but have not actually reached the dire state of poverty that would make for more sensational news.


More worrisome is not just how sensationalized the news has become, but the fact that several mainstream  and alternative news sites seem to have the same wrong interpretation of events…. Worrisome indeed. It’s great that the mainstream appears to care about the concept of poverty, but it’s a slippery slope of unconscious acceptance of half-truths that brings us stuff like he Iraq war. Several sites had used “low-income” rather than “poverty”.


Here’s the summary: Most American kids come from poor households (they do not come from households experiencing poverty), more than ever before or at least since this statistic was first calculated. We should also be a little more critical about what the mainstream, as well as the alternative media (mea culpa), says. Mistakes get made, it does not hurt to dig a bit deeper.


Anyway, Mississippi leads the pack in this measure of poorness, at 71% of all public school kids needing food subsidies. New Mexica trails at 68%, Louisiana at 65%.


That deepening poverty likely will complicate already fraught political discussions on how to educate American students, as prior research has shown students are significantly more at risk academically in schools with 40 percent or higher concentrations of poverty,” according to Education Week.


Another study was done that shows that the number of homeless kids is also on the rise; one child in thirty was homeless in 2013 according to the National Centre on Family Homelessness, or a total of 2.5 million homeless kids in America.


The director for the California Homeless Youth Project, Shahera Hyatt, was not surprised.

These terms like ‘couch surfing’ and ‘doubled-up’ sound a lot more polite than they are in practice,” she said. “For teenagers, it might be exchanging sex for a place to stay or staying someplace that does not feel safe because they are so mired in their day-to-day survival needs.”


“Without decisive action and the allocation of sufficient resources, the nation will fail to reach the stated federal goal of ending family homelessness by 2020, and child homelessness may result in a permanent Third World in America,” the report states.


Duh. I can’t believe that there even is a stated goal to end family homelessness at all, much less in five years, given the direction the nation is headed. But the mainstream told me that the economy is recovering….


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  1. I think the numbers are off. us population is 350,
    “51% of students now live in “poverty”, or 74.5 million kids in America.”
    THAT Would Mean THAT There ARE 150 Million Kids Out Of 350? I don’t believe that’s right.


    • No, not really. The US population is about 350 million….but you didn’t account for every age group. The country isn’t entirely made up of kids you know.

  2. Parents often lie about their income. I ha view student folders where both parents write in zero income and they both have cell phones


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