Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

School spending, household income, and poverty

My colleague Emanuel Vespa and I have been having a friendly argument about whether we spend less on kids in lower income areas. Emanuel said “yes” and I said “no.” So Emanuel put together a huge data set covering essentially every school district in the country. I’ve used his data to answer the question. And it turns out the answer is “depends what you mean.”

Here’s a comparison of school spending by district (relative to state averages) with child poverty rates. You’ll see that there’s just no relation.

exp_by_povertyBut what Emanuel was basing his intuition on was looking at household income rather than poverty rates. That relation looks a little different.

exp_by_incomeIn large districts (districts with over 15,000 students, comprising just under half the kids in the country), there’s no relation here either. But in small and medium districts, spending is higher where families are wealthier.

The substantive answer seems to be that we don’t spend less on poor kids than on kids from average income areas. We do spend more at the very high end of the income spectrum. More on this next time.

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