National Urban Ministry Association



A New Majority Research Bulletin: Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation's Public Schools


2015 - Low income students are now a majority of the schoolchildren attending the nation’s public schools, according to this research bulletin. The latest data collected from the states by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), show that 51 percent of the students across the nation’s public schools were low income in 2013.


In 40 of the 50 states, low income students comprised no less than 40 percent of all public schoolchildren. In 21 states, children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches were a majority of the students in 2013.


Most of the states with a majority of low income students are found in the South and the West. Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West.


Mississippi led the nation with the highest rate: ­71 percent, almost three out of every four public school children in Mississippi, were low-income. The nation’s second highest rate was found in New Mexico, where 68 percent of all public school students were low income in 2013.


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Citation - Suitts, Steve. A New Majority Research Bulletin: Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation's Public Schools. Southern Education Foundation. (2015).


How Does This Knowledge Impact What We Do?


     The majority of urban ministries and urban churches are engaged in serving children living in poverty.  According to the federal government, the poverty level for a family of four is $23,850.  The southern states are in red which indicates poverty levels of 51% and above. This recent study by the Southern Education Foundation affirms the need to continue to focus on children.  The above map shows at a glance the percentage of children living in poverty by state. Based on the map, very urban ministry and urban church is impacted by poverty.  Moreover suburban churches and congregations that do not consider themselves to be engaged in urban ministry are impacted by the impoverished children attending schools near their church building.


What Theology Informs What We Do?


Luke 4:14-21 (NIV)

14  Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15  He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”


     It is clear that Jesus ministry is to proclaim good news to the poor.  According to Matthew 19:14, children are also important in the ministry of Jesus.  The body of Christ should live out the mission of God, missio dei.  The best example of living out the mission of God is Jesus, the Christ.  Consequently, a church whether urban, suburban, or rural should reflect the incarnational ministry of Jesus by proclaiming good news to the poor and serving children.  James gives instructions to look after orphans and widows in Chapter 1:27.   While this is a very specific application for the fatherless and widows, it demonstrates how the church can apply the principles today in a broader sense to poor children in our cities.








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