The share of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL) via meal applications is often used as a proxy for the share of students from low-income households at a school. But the recent adoption of universal meal programs, such as the Community Eligibility Provision, make it more difficult to consistently measure student poverty within and across states.
The Urban Institute’s Model Estimates of Poverty in Schools (MEPS) is a school-level measure of the share of students living in poverty that is comparable across states and time. The MEPS measure reflects, as closely as possible, the students who attend each school (i.e., the measure is distinct from a neighborhood measure). The scale of the poverty measure aligns with the district-level estimates from the US Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE), capturing students with family incomes up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.