The Impact of Geographic Cost of Living Adjustments on School Lunch Eligibility

Douglas Geverdt, U.S. Census Bureau

The federal government distributes billions of dollars to school districts each year based on the number of poor school-age children living in the district. Although an annual cost of living (COL) adjustment is applied to official poverty thresholds to reflect changes in the costs of goods over time, these thresholds are not adjusted for potential cost differences between geographic areas. This analysis examined the impact of geographic COL adjustments on the spatial distribution of school district poverty, and it specifically examined how these adjustments impact the school-age population eligible for Free, Reduced-price, and Paid lunches from the National School Lunch Program. The analysis applied a HUD-designed geographic COL index to child poverty data from Census 2000 records. Mapped results of the U.S. show that adjusted district poverty estimates generally create declines in districts that primarily serve rural areas and increase Free-lunch eligible students in districts serving large, densely-populated urban areas.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Poster Session 6