Education is the pathway to upper mobility for the most disadvantaged. Yet access to quality education remains largely a function of income; households in higher income brackets enjoy better quality schools and outcomes for their children. Disparities in access to education and in achievement can also be mapped to race, disability status, immigration status, family composition, and other characteristics that should not affect a child’s ability to succeed in school.
Our indicators under the Education theme look at how characteristics mentioned above can influence outcomes at every discrete phase of learning: Early Education, Elementary and Middle School Education,High School Education, andHigher Education.
You can see a snapshot of the indicators averaged in this theme in the chart to your right and then visit the sections below for more detail.
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Early childhood education, for those aged 0-4 years old, has taken center stage as a tool for combatting inequality. Quality child care and pre-K programs are considered game-changers in children’s educational and life trajectories. Improved school readiness and basic achievement are short-term benefits. But early experiences with education also have long-term benefits, including avoidance of criminal justice involvement, greater earning power, and better quality of life in later years.
To understand Early Education in the context of inequality, we used four indicators:
Race & Pre-K Diversity
Income & Child Care Facilities
Income & Pre-K Quality
Family Composition & Early School Enrollment
Take a look at the chart to your right for an overall picture of this topic, and then go to each indicator and the scores in context for more detail and additional findings.
What is Measured? Percentage of pre-Ks with more than 75% of their enrollees from one racial or ethnic group.
What’s the Backstory? Diversity among preschool peers can support cognitive and social development and may improve language skills and reduce prejudice. Most children in public pre-Ks in the US are in programs that are segregated economically and often by race or ethnicity.
What Did We Find? Over one-third of public pre-Ks (34.5%) had more than 75% of their enrollees from one racial or ethnic group, which was similar to the percentage at baseline (36.4%). However, more than three in four (76.9%) pre-Ks had a racial or ethnic majority of some kind (i.e., more than 50% from one racial or ethnic group). Of those, 30.4% were majority Hispanic, 20.6% were majority black, 15.2% were majority white, and 10.4% were majority Asian. Only 23.1% of pre-Ks had no racial or ethnic majority.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of parents in the bottom and top income groups without a child care center within a 10-minute walk.
What’s the Backstory? Parents often cite location as one of their priorities when deciding on child care providers, and this may be especially important for those with low income. Having a child care center nearby allows greater flexibility for family members or other trusted adults to drop off or pick up children when parents are at work or school.
What Did We Find? The percentage of parents that reported there was no child care center within a 10-minute walk of their home was higher among the top income group (36.0%) than the bottom income group (19.8%), a reversal from the baseline year. While likely reflecting some change in perceived access to child care, this change may also have been due, in part, to differences in the number of respondents in each income group between the 2015 and 2018 ISLG public surveys. There were also racial and ethnic disparities, with more than a quarter of Asian (32.6%), Hispanic (30.0%), and white parents (29.9%) indicating there was no child care center within a 10-minute walk, compared to 18.9% of black parents. Additionally, lesbian/gay/bisexual parents were much more likely (52.9%) than heterosexual parents (22.9%) to not have a child care center nearby.
What is Measured? Ratio between the average ECERS-R ratings in pre-Ks in the bottom and top income areas.
What’s the Backstory? The link between the quality of the physical and social environments of pre-K classrooms and young children’s learning and development is well-documented. Access to quality pre-K varies by income, with children from low-income families least likely to be in high-quality preschool settings.
What Did We Find? DOE’s Early Childhood Environment Rating System-Revised (ECERS-R) rates pre-K programs on a 1-7 scale across six different areas that relate to child development outcomes. The average ECERS-R rating increased slightly from baseline for pre-Ks in the bottom income areas (from 3.97 to 4.14), but decreased slightly in the top income areas (from 4.39 to 4.29). As a result, there was a moderate improvement in the disparity between the two income groups, and both groups had an average rating higher than 3.4 in each year, which is the level shown to be associated with improved child outcomes.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of 3- and 4-year-olds living with one and two parents who are not enrolled in school.
What’s the Backstory? High-quality early education fosters children’s development and educational success and improves families’ financial security by freeing up parents to become or remain employed. Early education may be especially important for children with single parents, as it often helps provide them with greater stability.
What Did We Find? The percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds not enrolled in school decreased slightly from baseline for children living with one parent (from 43.5% to 38.5%) and children living with two parents (from 37.1% to 32.5%), and there was almost no change in the disparity between the two groups. Three- and 4-year-olds living with single fathers were more likely not to be enrolled in school (46.1%) than those living with single mothers (37.0%) in the current year. There were also disparities by poverty level, with 40.9% of 3- and 4-year-olds living at or below the poverty level and 33.0% of those living above the poverty level not enrolled in school.
Elementary and Middle School Education
Students aged 5-15 face a host of academic and social challenges. Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics were implemented in 2012 in all NYC schools, beginning at the elementary level. Proficiency in these standards varies greatly by race and disability status. Yet students’ level of proficiency is often affected by the quality of their teachers and schools. Students in higher-income households enjoy better quality schools, which may include greater feelings of safety.
To understand Elementary and Middle School Education in the context of inequality, we used four indicators:
Race & Math Proficiency
Race & Principal Experience
Income & School Safety
Disability & English Proficiency
Look at the chart to your right for an overall picture of this topic, and then explore each indicator for more detail and additional findings.
Indicators within Elementary and Middle School Education
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of blacks and Asians in grades 3-8 rated less than proficient on the math Common Core.
What’s the Backstory? Math skills are not only valuable in the context of school, but are needed for everyday calculations and can enhance employment opportunities. Nationwide, Asians have the highest math scores followed by whites, while blacks and Hispanics lag behind.
What Did We Find? The percentages of students who were not proficient on the math Common Core decreased from baseline for all racial and ethnic groups, but there was very little change in the disparity between black and Asian students. Three in four black students were not proficient (down from 80.9% at baseline), compared to 69.7% of Hispanic students (down from 76.3%), 36.4% of white students (down from 43.3%), and 27.8% of Asian students (down from 33.2%). There was also a large disparity by disability status, with 84.6% of students with disabilities not proficient, compared to 49.7% of those without disabilities.
What is Measured? Ratio between the median years of principal experience in majority black and majority Asian schools.
What’s the Backstory? Principals with greater experience are more likely to support teachers’ sense of self-efficacy and can lead to better student outcomes, such as performance on standardized tests, fewer absences and suspensions, and higher graduation rates. This may be particularly true of experienced principals in schools with a majority-minority student body.
What Did We Find? The median years of principal experience was highest in majority Asian schools (5.80), followed by majority Hispanic (5.30), majority white (5.25), and majority black schools (5.00), but the disparity between majority black and majority Asian schools saw a large improvement from baseline. This positive change was due to an increase in median years of principal experience in majority black schools (up from 4.00 at baseline), coupled with a decrease in majority Asian schools (down from 8.30). The median years of principal experience also decreased from baseline in majority Hispanic schools (down from 6.20) and majority white schools (down from 6.05).
What is Measured? Ratio between the average percentages of students in schools located in the bottom and top income areas who do not feel safe in the area outside their school.
What’s the Backstory? School safety can affect both physical and mental health, as well as ability to thrive in school. In the US, parents with lower incomes are more likely than those with higher incomes to report school safety as a serious problem.
What Did We Find? The average percentages of students who reported that they did not feel safe in the area outside their school decreased slightly from the baseline year in both the bottom and top 20% median income census tracts; however, the disparity between the two remained almost unchanged. Schools in low-income areas were also more likely than schools in high-income areas to have students report that they do not feel safe traveling to school (17.4%, compared to 11.4%), in the classroom (10.6%, compared to 8.3%), and in school hallways, bathrooms, locker rooms, and cafeterias (16.8%, compared to 15.3%).
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of students with and without disabilities in grades 3-8 rated less than proficient on the English Language Arts Common Core.
What’s the Backstory? More than 19% of students in NYC public schools are classified as students with disabilities, and students with disabilities often face substantial challenges in learning and at school. In the US, students with disabilities have dramatically lower levels of proficiency in math and reading than those without disabilities.
What Did We Find? Students in grades 3-8 with and without disabilities improved their proficiency on the English Language Arts Common Core, but there was a larger disparity between these groups than in the baseline year. Among students with disabilities, 84.2% were less than proficient on the English Language Arts Common Core, compared to 44.8% of students without disabilities. There were also large racial and ethnic differences in proficiency: 66.0% of black and 64.1% of Hispanic students were not proficient in English Language Arts, compared to 33.5% of white and 32.8% of Asian students. When broken down by gender, boys were more likely not to be proficient (59.3%) than girls (47.2%).
High School Education
High school is a critically important time, where students prepare themselves for college or technical occupations. Falling behind in high school puts students at risk for not graduating on-time or dropping out. Factors like race, disability status, and income can affect academic performance, school discipline, and on-time graduation rates, further exacerbating gaps between high and low performing students.
To understand High School Education as a function of inequality, we used four indicators:
Race & Academic Performance
Race & School Discipline
Disability & On-time Graduation
Income & On-time Graduation
Take a look at the chart to your right for an overall picture of this topic, and then look at each indicator and the scores in context for more detail and additional findings.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of Hispanic and white high school students not passing the statewide English exam.
What’s the Backstory? In order to graduate in New York State, most high school students take one of two standardized English tests; a passing score on the Comprehensive English Regents exam is 65 points and above, and the equivalent for the Common Core English Language Arts exam is level three or above. In NYC, Hispanic and black students are least likely to earn a passing score.
What Did We Find? The percentages of high school students not passing the statewide English exam decreased from baseline for all racial and ethnic groups, but the disparity between Hispanic and white students increased. Hispanic students continued to have the highest failure rate at 26.8%, compared to 25.9% of black, 13.6% of Asian, and 12.3% of white students. There was also a disparity between economically disadvantaged students (24.3%) and students not facing economic disadvantage (16.8%). Additionally, 18.0% of female students did not pass the exam, compared to 26.3% of male students.
What is Measured? Ratio between the suspension rates of black and white students.
What’s the Backstory? School suspensions can disrupt learning and exacerbate other challenges to thriving in school. Students who have been suspended are more likely to be held back a grade level and drop out of school than other students their age. Suspensions disproportionately affect black and Hispanic children, and may increase the likelihood of arrest or incarceration.
What Did We Find? Although suspension rates decreased for all racial and ethnic groups, black students continued to be suspended at a higher rate (5,465.791 per 100,000) than Hispanic students (2,946.963) and white students (1,680.771). Black students accounted for almost half (46.9%) of the 35,234 suspensions in the current year, while comprising only 26.5% of the student population. Hispanic students accounted for 38.6% of suspensions and 40.4% of the student population. White students accounted for only 8.1% of suspensions but 14.9% of the student population. Black students were also disproportionately likely to have two or more suspensions or removals (49.9%) than Hispanic (37.7%) and white (7.7%) students.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of students with and without disabilities not graduating from high school in four years.
What’s the Backstory? Numerous barriers may keep students with disabilities from performing well academically and graduating. Students with disabilities are more likely to be held back a grade, often because of behavioral problems, and are more likely than other students in their age group to drop out of school.
What Did We Find? The rate of students not graduating in four years decreased from baseline for both students with disabilities (from 63.4% to 56.6%) and those without disabilities (from 30.6% to 22.9%), while there was a small increase in the disparity between the two groups. There were also disparities by race and ethnicity with 35.3 % of Hispanic students, 33.5% of black students, 18.8% of white students, and 15.0% of Asian students not graduating on time.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of 18-year-olds living below and above the poverty level who have a high school diploma or higher.
What’s the Backstory? A high school diploma is important for future economic stability. Without one, an individual’s lifetime earnings drop substantially compared with those with a diploma, as does the likelihood of better health outcomes and higher life satisfaction. In NYC, there is a very strong correlation between the child poverty rate and graduation rate in a neighborhood.
What Did We Find? Among 18-year-olds living at or below the poverty level, 43.0% had a high school diploma, compared to 62.4% of those living above the poverty level. Percentages decreased from baseline for 18-year olds living in poverty (from 51.1%), while they increased slightly for those not living in poverty (from 61.4%), resulting in a larger disparity between the two groups. On-time graduation also differed by citizenship status: among 18-year-olds who were not US citizens, 54.8% had a high school diploma, compared to 63.7% of 18-year-old citizens.
Making it to college is a huge accomplishment for many of the disadvantaged groups studied. But sharp disparities exist in degree attainment and post-degree employment by race. The types of degrees students earn can also impact their employment prospects. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) degrees are cited as the most marketable in today’s economy, and large disparities exist in them by gender. Yet college is not the only pathway to a good job. Vocational training is another avenue. The incarcerated, who disproportionately lack high school degrees and job skills, benefit from access to vocational training, which has been found to reduce recidivism and to improve the likelihood of finding future employment.
To understand Higher Education in the context of inequality, we used four indicators:
Race & Degree Attainment
Race & Post-Degree Employment
Gender & Science Degrees
Incarceration & Vocational Training
Take a look at the chart to your right for an overall picture of this topic, and then look at each indicator and the scores in context for more detail and additional findings.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of Hispanics and whites who do not have a bachelor’s degree.
What’s the Backstory? A college degree generates benefits that are educational, vocational, and personal, and may lead to more employment opportunities, greater income, better benefits, and more stability. Hispanics in the US are less likely to have a bachelor’s degree, which may hamper their economic prospects.
What Did We Find? Overall, 55.0% of respondents did not have a bachelor’s degree or higher; of these, 6.9% did not have a high school diploma. Hispanics were the most likely not to have a bachelor’s degree (63.9%), followed closely by blacks (62.5%). Whites were the least likely to lack a bachelor’s degree (44.5%), followed closely by Asians (46.9%). While the percentages were similar to baseline for Hispanics and blacks, they increased for Asians and whites, contributing to the decreased disparity between Hispanics and whites in the current year. Looking at disability status, 69.9% of respondents with a disability did not have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 50.9% of those without a disability.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of recent Asian and white graduates who are unemployed.
What’s the Backstory? A college degree may lead to more employment opportunities, greater income, and more stability. In NYC, racial and ethnic minorities are more likely than whites to be unemployed even when they have similar levels of educational attainment.
What Did We Find? The percentage of recent graduates (defined as individuals 21-25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher) who are unemployed decreased from baseline for all racial and ethnic groups, and the disparity between Asians and whites remained the same. In the current year, 7.7% of Asian recent graduates were unemployed, down from 11.2% at baseline. Among Hispanic recent graduates, 5.5% were unemployed in the current year (down from 8.9% at baseline), while 4.9% of black recent graduates were unemployed (down from 10.6% at baseline). White recent graduates also saw an improvement in unemployment from 4.4% at baseline to 3.1% in the current year.
What is Measured? Ratio between the percentages of female and male CUNY degree recipients whose degrees are in STEM fields.
What’s the Backstory? In recent years, job growth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has dramatically exceeded other job growth in the US. Women obtain STEM degrees at a disproportionately lower rate than men, and though they constitute roughly half of the nation’s workforce, they hold fewer than one in four STEM jobs.
What Did We Find? While the percentages of CUNY graduates receiving STEM degrees increased from baseline for both men and women, men continued to be much more likely to receive a STEM degree (23.5%) than women (9.2%) and the disparity between the two groups remained the same. Among those receiving STEM degrees, women were the most likely to get their degrees in science disciplines (60.4%) followed distantly by technology (21.1%), while men were most likely to get them in technology (54.0%) followed by science (23.5%). There were also disparities by race and ethnicity, with 23.2% of Asian students and 10.6% of Hispanic students receiving STEM degrees. Notably, black students were slightly more likely to receive STEM degrees (14.5 %) than white students (12.6%).
What is Measured? Percentage of the average daily jail population not attending vocational training.
What’s the Backstory? Roughly half of the people incarcerated in US jails and prisons lack a high school diploma or its equivalent, and they disproportionately lack job skills. Educational and vocational programs in correctional settings can help reduce recidivism and may improve the likelihood that people will find future employment.
What Did We Find? The average daily jail population was 8,896, and the average daily number of participants in reentry and hard skills training programs was 2,079, or 23.4%. While the vast majority of jail inmates did not attend vocational or related reentry programming (76.6%), the percentage not attending decreased from baseline (89.5%), indicating more involvement. Of those participating in vocational and related reentry programs, 50.0% were involved in the Individual Corrections Achievement Network program (I-CAN), 24.9% were involved in the SMART program, 9.7% participated in Literacy/GED classes, and 9.0% were involved in Workforce Development training.