Education researchers often use children’s free and reduced-price school lunch status to measure socioeconomic disadvantage in schools. But research published this month in Educational Researcher points to limitations and benefits in that approach.
The authors compared school-lunch-status data for 8th graders in one California district and across the state of Oregon with federal income-tax data for those families. They found that the lunch measure didn’t capture much variation in household income, but it was better at predicting academic achievement. That may be because school lunch status taps into forms of educational disadvantage, like income instability, that income-tax data may miss, the study says.
A version of this article appeared in the September 19, 2018 edition of Education Week as Poverty Indicators