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About 14.2 percent of all white children were in families living below the poverty level in 1989, compared with 36.2 percent of children of Hispanic origin and 43.7 percent of black children, the study says.

The census report also includes data showing that poverty rates decrease dramatically as years of school completed increases.

In 1989, the poverty rate was 20.7 percent for heads of households who had not completed high school, 8.9 percent for those who had graduated from high school but not attended college, and 3.6 percent for those with at least one year of college.

American students are three times more likely to take computer, economics, and business classes than their Japanese counterparts and express more confidence in the education they are receiving, according to a new survey.

The findings of the Junior Achievement-Gallup International Youth survey of 750 American and 790 Japanese junior- and senior-high-school students sharply depart from the conventional wisdom regarding the two educational systems.

The survey, released last month, found that 56 percent of U.S. students, but only 44 percent of Japanese students, have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in public schools.

It also showed higher career aspirations among American children. Eighty-one percent of U.S. students polled planned to attend college either full- or part-time, compared with 68 percent of the Japanese students. About 65 percent of Americans said they foresee professional or managerial careers, compared with only 26 percent of the Japanese surveyed.

Voicing skepticism about what conclusions can be drawn from the survey results, John E. Chubb said in an interview that opinions and aspirations do not challenge the facts. American optimism may be blind, added the co-author of a Brookings Institution report earlier this year that was sharply critical of U.S. public schools.

"By most standards, Japanese students are doing better than American students," Mr. Chubb said.

The telephone survey was conducted last February and included a cross-section of students from both countries.

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