The ACS collects information about school attendance: whether the student has been attending school within the last 3 months, whether the school is public or private, and the grade attended. The ACS also collects information about each person’s age. Hence for a given geographic area, it is possible to obtain estimates for students who live in that area, attend public school, and are in approximately the appropriate grade range. In defining public school students, the panel adapted the definitions used by the Census Bureau to support the research efforts of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Namely, a “student” is a person with the following responses2 to the ACS questions shown in Boxes B-1, B-2, and B-33:

  • yes, attended public school or public college at some time during the past 3 months,
  • highest degree or level of school completed reported as “No schooling” or “Nursery or preschool through 12 grades,” and
  • age reported to be less than 20 years old.4


According to the Eligibility Manual for School Meals, U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food and Nutrition Service (2011:40)

households must report current income on a free and reduced price application. Current income means income received by the household for the current month, the amount projected for the first month for which the application is filled out, or for the month prior to application. If this income is higher or lower than usual and does not fairly represent the


2 ACS data for all individuals in a household are typically provided by one person in the household.

3 Because the ACS identifies students based on their having attended school during the last 3 months rather than based on current attendance, there is a possibility that students in split families with joint custody may be living in a different household at the time of the ACS interview than they were when attending school. To the extent that children live with different parents at different times, this might cause ACS estimates to make use of the wrong household’s income.

4 NCES’s definition of public school student is as described above except that NCES applies the test in the second bullet—high school diploma or GED not reported—only to students aged 18 or 19. Hence the NCES definition includes individuals aged 0-17 who reported that they have received a high school degree and also that they attended a public school in the last 3 months. The panel’s definition excludes these individuals. According to the ACS Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files for 2008, there were 245,609 students below age 18 with high school degrees or about .5% of the total number of students in 2008.

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