Methods: Data were from the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS), Maryland’s statewide repository for individual-level education and workforce data. MLDS receives the data from three state agencies and longitudinally links the data to follow individuals over time. The cohort of Maryland public school students who were in 6th grade (N = 54,465) in 2007-08 (the earliest year of data available in the MLDS) was used for this study. The cohort was predominantly White (45%; 35% Black; 5% Asian; 4% other) and non-Hispanic (89%). Fifty-one percent were never disadvantaged (eligible for free and reduced-price meals, FARMS) throughout middle and high school, 30% were transitorily disadvantaged (sometimes FARMS), and 19% were persistently disadvantaged (always FARMS). Students attended 466 public schools in 6th grade and 257 public schools in 12th grade in 2013-14. This study used SAS 9.3 to obtain descriptive statistics and Stata 15 with MlwiN 3.02 to conduct multilevel modeling.
Results: Students who were never disadvantaged were more likely to graduate high school on time (49% versus 15%), enroll in college within 2 years (42% versus 9%), and earn higher quarterly wages ($777 versus $572 among those who never enrolled in postsecondary) when compared to students who were persistently disadvantaged. Results showed school poverty overshadowed student poverty for outcomes like SAT Math scores (school effect size (Cohen’s d): .52; student effect size: .34) and likelihood of graduating on time (school effect: .54; student effect: .37). Student poverty more strongly influenced students graduating despite being retained (school effect: .26; student effect: .36), or dropping out of school altogether (school effect: .23; student effect: .30).
Conclusions and Implications: Concentrated poverty at the school level has significant implications for students’ academic and postsecondary success. A discussion will focus on implications for research, policy, and practice.