School Age Demographics

Recent Trends Pose New Educational Challenges Gao ID: HRD-93-105BR August 5, 1993

GAO found that the school-age population--children age five to 17--declined by 2.3 million during the 1980s. But during this period, the number of poor school-age children increased and became more racially and ethnically diverse; the numbers of poor Hispanic and Asian children grew at the fastest rates. Between 1980 and 1990, the poor school-age population grew and became more concentrated in the West and the Southwest, although significant numbers of school-age poor remain in other areas, the South especially. The poor school-age population also increased and became more concentrated in the nation's largest cities. With no changes in the chapter 1 formula for allocating funds to educate low-achieving children in high poverty areas, these patterns will substantially affect the distribution of money to states and counties. With the shift to 1990 census data in the chapter 1 allocation formula, many western and southwestern states will gain funds while other areas, especially those with very high poverty concentrations, are likely to lose funds. Other trends GAO identified have consequences for federal education programs, like those funded under the Bilingual Education Act, that serve other specially targeted child populations.

GAO found that: (1) there was a 5.8-percent decline in school age children between 1980 and 1990; (2) during the 1980s, the number of poor school age children grew by 6 percent; (3) white children represented more than 40 percent of all poor school age children in 1990; (4) the parents of poor children varied by race and ethnicity and educational attainment; (5) the number of poor school age children became increasingly concentrated in the western and southwestern United States; (6) during the 1980s, poor school age children were concentrated in the nation's largest cities; (7) children from at-risk populations represented 4 to 5 percent of all school age children; and (8) at-risk children were more likely to attend public schools.

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