PROJECTModeled Estimates of Poverty in Schools

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  • Researchers and policymakers have historically relied on National School Lunch Program data to identify students experiencing poverty. But recent changes in school meal programs have led to a decline in the accuracy of the share of students certified for free and reduced-price meals, and direct certification data is underreported.

    Model Estimates of Poverty in Schools (MEPS), developed by the Urban Institute, aims to address these data accuracy concerns by providing estimates of school-level shares of students in families with incomes up to the federal poverty level. These estimates are compatible across states and time frames, aligned to the school’s enrolled population.

    MEPS offers valuable insights into socioeconomic shifts within schools over time or across regions. But it’s not suitable for resource allocation or other situations requiring precise counts rather than modeled estimates.

    Access to MEPS data is available for download through the Urban Institute’s Education Data Portal, where updates and occasional revisions are published. Version 1.1, the latest, is accessible as of March 14, 2024. Original MEPS data remain available for replication research. Contact [email protected] for access. For further details on MEPS creation and revisions, consult the provided resources.

    MEPS used in research
    Tags Families with low incomes Income and wealth distribution Inequities in educational achievement K-12 education Poverty School breakfast and lunch School funding
    Policy Centers Center on Education Data and Policy