and more instructional support staff and specialists per pupil. In contrast, the characteristics of the student body have changed significantly in ways that pose greater challenges for the schools.
The proportion of minority students has increased substantially over the past 10 years, particularly that of Hispanics, from 9 to 12 percent of all school-age children (Table 8.4). Together blacks and Hispanics now constitute the student majority in center-city schools. By most measures of educational and life outcomes, minority youth fare poorly. Although a substantial portion of their lower performance is attributable to factors that are correlated with race/ethnicity, there is strong evidence of residual negative outcomes after controlling for a wide range of these other factors (Haveman and Wolfe, 1994). The proportion of youths who speak languages other than English at home has been rising with the growth in ethnic minorities. In 1990 nearly one in seven school-age children spoke another language at home (Table 8.4). One-half of these children, 7 percent, have difficulty speaking English—an increase of 26 percent from a decade earlier. Difficulty with English is a strong predictor of poor school performance and subsequent poor employment outcomes.
As a result of cultural differences between minority groups, especially minority language groups, and the dominant culture of most schools, the parenting styles of many minorities are sometimes at odds with the cultural norms in American schools. In addition, many minority children, especially those in minority groups with long histories of economic and social hardship in the United States, are likely to see few economic prospects in their future and therefore little reason to strive for academic success. Ethnographers suggest that cultural differences and perceptions of poor economic prospects account for some of the residual performance differences between some minority groups and white youth, after controlling for easily measurable socioeconomic factors (Erickson, 1987; Ogbu, 1987).
Following national poverty trends, U.S. schools are serving larger numbers of poor children. In the past 10 years alone, the percentage of public school children from low-income families increased by 40 percent (Table 8.4). Accompanying the rising poverty rates are modest (15 percent) increases in the incidence of children who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities that warrant special services. After years of decline in teenage pregnancy and birth rates following the introduction of oral contraceptives, the rates are again on the rise (Zill and Nord, 1994; Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1994). In 1990 there were 60 births per 1,000 15- to 17-year old girls in this country, a 13 percent increase from the 1980 level (Table 8.4). Even more problematic is the fact that the birth rate among unmarried young women increased by 50 percent over the same period. Motherhood increases dramatically the likelihood that a teenager will drop out of school or exhibit poor performance if she remains (Congressional Budget Office, 1990; Geronimus and Korenman, 1993; Moore et al., 1993; Nord et al., 1992).
Informal reports suggest a rising rate of school violence. However, major