Students of Color Comprise Majority in High Poverty Rural Districts

Last Updated: January 01, 2008

The 800 rural districts with the highest poverty rates (we call these districts the "Rural 800") serve a population made up primarily of students of color. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that these 800 rural districts, scattered across 38 states, serve approximately 969,000 school-age children. About 26% are African American, 20% Hispanic, and 10% Native American.

On average, 32% of all students in Rural 800 districts are eligible for federal Title I funding-most because they live in households with income below the poverty line. Eligibility rates among the districts, however, range from a low of 26% to a high of 100%.

The total student count in these districts varies from that we reported earlier for the Rural 800 districts for two reasons: data from the 2007-08 school year is now available and because this count excludes any district with fewer than 10 Title I students.

Title I is the federal program that gives local districts funds to provide extra help to disadvantaged children. Some students who are not from poor families are eligible because they are neglected or delinquent, receive public assistance, or are in foster homes. Title I eligibility is used as an estimator of poverty levels, however, because overall, about 96% of Title I children are eligible due to family income.

The percentages of students of color in Rural 800 districts vary across the country, with some states showing very high percentages. In Alaska, 97% of students in Rural 800 districts are Native Alaskans. In Alabama, 81% are African-American. Rural 800 districts in California are 71% Hispanic. In New Mexico, 90% of students in Rural 800 districts are either Hispanic (47%) or Native American (43%). Arizona has a similar but reverse configuration: 45% of students are Native American and 38% are Hispanic.

Overall, 11% of Rural 800 students are English Language Learners. The highest rate is in Alaska, where 90% of Rural 800 students are learning English, followed by New Mexico and California, where 47% and 43% of students are learning English.