Facts about Rural and Low SES Students


  • More than 30 million children are growing up in poverty. In some low-income communities, there is only one book for every 300 children.
  • A majority (51%) of students attending public schools live in low-income households.
  • 40% of children living in poverty aren’t prepared for primary schooling.
  • Children that live below the poverty line are 1.3 times more likely to have developmental delays or learning disabilities than those who don’t live in poverty.
  • By the end of the 4th grade, African-American, Hispanic and low-income students are already 2 years behind grade level. By the time they reach the 12th grade, they are 4 years behind.
  • Children living in poverty have a higher number of absences from school.
  • Children living in poverty are more likely to drop out of school to work or care for family members.
  • 16- to 24-year-old students who come from low-income families are 7 times more likely to drop out than those from families with higher incomes.
  • Students at low-income rural schools are less likely to attend college than their peers at high-income rural schools, and are also less likely to continue on to their second year of college.

Young Adult/College Age

  • A higher percentage of young adults (31%) without a high school diploma live in poverty, compared to the 24% of young people who finished high school.
  • Less than 30% of students in the bottom quarter of incomes enroll in a 4-year school. Among that group,  less than 50% graduate.
  • 64% of rural students pursue post-secondary education, compared to 70% of students in metro areas.
  • 47% of rural students chose to enroll in 2-year institutions, compared to 38% of students living in metro areas.
  • Rural students are less likely to attend private or highly selective post-secondary institutions.
  • Some rural and low income students may feel uncomfortable or intimidated transitioning from small communities to a large university in a big town.
  • Some rural and low income students may shy away from higher tuition or opt for a community college, if they are undecided on a career and don’t want to spend money at a more expensive school.


11 Facts About Education and Poverty in America. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-education-and-poverty-america

Mader, J. (2014, April 11). Students from rural areas less likely to go to four-year colleges, top universities. Retrieved from http://hechingerreport.org/students-rural-areas-less-likely-go-four-year-colleges-top-universities/

Additional articles, reports and links about rural and low SES students can be found at the links below:

National Center for Children in Poverty http://www.nccp.org/

ASCD. Poverty and Education: From a War on Poverty to the Majority of Public School Students Living in Poverty, A Report on the Spring 2015 ASCD Whole Child Symposium. Includes summaries of sessions and video clips of speakers.

Berg, Nichole. “School is No Place for Class(ism)” Teaching Tolerance blog, 14 Oct 2015.

Boschma, Janie and Brownstein, Ronald. “The Concentration of Poverty in American Schools” in The Atlantic, 29 Feb 2016.

Ching, Jacqueline. “The Poverty Myth” in Teaching Tolerance Magazine, Spring 2012.

Clemens, Colleen Lutz. “How to Support First-Generation College Students” Teaching Tolerance blog, 5 July 2016..

Clift, Liz N. “Leveling the Economic Playing Field” Teaching Tolerance blog, 27 Aug 2014.

Edutopia: 5 Ways to Help Students Affected by Generational Poverty blog post, 9 June 2015.

Gorski, Paul. “Building a pedagogy of engagement for students in poverty” in Phi Delta Kappan, Sept 2013.

Gorski, Paul. “The Myth of the Culture of Poverty” in Educational Leadership, April 2008.

Gorski, Paul and Salwell, Katy. “Equity Literacy for All” in Educational Leadership, March 2015.

Jensen, Eric. “How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement” in Educational Leadership, May 2013.

Leonhardt, David. “Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor” in The New York Times, 16 March 2013.

Messitt, Maggie. “Raising Inequity” in Teaching Tolerance Magazine, Spring 2014.

Pew Research Center. College Enrollment Among Low Income Students Still Trails Richer Groups, 15 Jan 2014.

Southern Education Foundation. Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation’s Public Schools, Jan 2015.

Suitts, Steve. “Students Facing Poverty: The New Majority” in Educational Leadership, Nov 2016.

U.S. Department of Education. “Educating Students in Poverty” Communication Across Barriers.

van der Valk, Adrienne. “Questioning Payne” in Teaching Tolerance Magazine, Spring 2016.

Yahn, Jacqueline. “Addressing Poverty Bias in the ClassroomTeaching Tolerance blog, 10 Feb 2012.



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