UW report examines trends in student poverty, eligibility for FRL

The University of Wisconsin Applied Population Lab, in their ongoing series on Wisconsin’s demographics, recently released a report looking at the geographic disparities in student poverty, as measured by eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch (FRL).

The report suggests recent increases in student poverty have stabilized on a statewide basis, and while student poverty occurs throughout the state, geography is a strong predictor.  Some key takeaways:

“Over a half million Wisconsin children relied on free or reduced lunch at participating schools during the 2017-18 school year, which covered 82 million total meals.”

“The number of FRL eligible students increased on a steady basis until the 2014-15 school year, followed by a consistent number of students receiving free and reduced lunches over the following five years. Eligibility rates have hovered around 44% from the 2015-16 to 2018-19 school years.”

“The location category with the most students eligible for free and reduced lunch are urban districts, covering 57% of their enrolled population. Concurrently, 42% of the students in rural districts are eligible for free and reduced lunch, followed by 40% of students in town districts. Only 24% of students in suburban districts are eligible.”

The full report includes interactive state maps and charts and can be viewed here.

Note: “A classification system developed by the National Center of Education Statistics assigns school districts to four categories based on the population of the area and their distance from an urbanized area. Rural districts are defined as being at least 5 miles from even a small urbanized area. Districts in the town category are located in places with a densely settled area with a population of less than 50,000, while suburban districts are outside a principal city but inside an urbanized area. Finally, urban districts are located inside a principal city at the heart of a metropolitan area.” Read More.