School-to-Prison Pipeline: School Funding

As you may know, education spending in the United States is chronically low, totaling six percent of the total federal funding per year.


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According to the U.S. Department of Education, the primary source of funding in the U.S. is intended to be from states and localities (approximately 83 cents per dollar, as of the 2004-2005 school year). The issue with this is the high rate of income inequality in the United States, particularly by location (rural, suburban, or urban). As such, those who live in poorer areas are able to contribute less to students’ education, and school funding, as well as educational quality, suffer. Lack of funding in schools and school districts often coincides with low rates of educational attainment and high rates of school closures (leading to overcrowding and high dropout rates). These issues correlate with higher rates of imprisonment, lending to the “school-to-prison pipeline” that academics and activists have become aware of.

Since funding of schools is intended to be mostly by locality, it is valuable to assess how poverty rates in different localities might indicate a link between school resource allocation and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Without accounting for locality, the average elementary and secondary education funding by local sources is approximately 44% (as of 2011).




When taking locality and poverty rates into account using the same data set, there is a clear trend in the allocation of local funding versus total funding (which includes federal, state, and local funding).




In areas of low poverty, all localities are able to contribute more to schooling, High poverty rates in all localities produce the opposite effect, as one might expect. Interestingly, suburbs and cities with high poverty rates are able to contribute roughly the same percentage to funding, while rural localities are able to contribute a lower percentage to school funding.

Schools that are funded less by the community receive less funding overall and also enjoy less community engagement with the schools and student education. Student educational attainment is lessened by these factors and research shows higher rates of arrest and incarceration among those with lower educational attainment.

These findings suggest that school resource allocation does not consist of a single number across the board, or a certain number of cents out of a dollar. One must take into account locality and poverty rate in determining school funding and understanding how the method of funding schools in the United States privileges certain students over others, creating educational opportunities for some and all but ensuring criminal records for others.

Additionally, funding for prisoners is increasing at a much higher rate than funding for students — nearly three times as quickly. Coupled with the chronic rise in America’s prison population, funding priority at federal and state levels seems to be given to prisons rather than schools. This results in resource-strapped schools, particularly in areas that are already limited in funding (i.e. poor locations, cities, and rural areas). Through this funding structure, students continue to be shuttled through the school-to-prison pipeline from schools to prisons, perpetuating the funding cycle and the pipeline.




The issues of the school-to-prison pipeline in relation to school funding is two-pronged then; the methods through which the majority of school funding is received work against high-need, high-risk areas that already have limited community resources, and the allocation of funding to rapidly growing prisons instead of schools. A re-examination of funding priorities and methods may go a long way in alleviating one aspect of the school-to-prison pipeline and resource inequality for students from kindergarten onward.

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Investigating Income Inequality in Millennials

At DASIL, we have many data visualizations that point at income inequality. We’ve also addressed some related issues in our blog posts. However, one demographic group has been left out of our conversations surrounding income inequality: millennials.

In a study done by Status of Women in the United States, they found that millennial women face a smaller wage gap than that between all men and women. Millennial women were also found to be somewhat more likely to work in finance and management than men.
Additionally, female millennials are 33% more likely than men to obtain a college degree by the age of 27.

While these are important strides, it does not mean that there is no longer a reason to be concerned about wage gaps. Here are some graphs created from our Mean Income by Age, Race, and Gender visualization that can help us explore the issue:

Mean Income by Age, Race, and Gender, 1967-2013 showing differences in average income between men and women aged 25-34

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Examining Food Insecurity Using the American Housing Survey

You may have heard the term “food desert” tossed around in conversation lately. But what does it mean? In 2010, an estimated 29.7 million Americans lived in low-income areas and were more than one mile away from a grocery store (Ver Ploeg et al., 2012). To see if the area you live in is considered a food desert, visit the Food Access Research Atlas at

Lawmakers, physicians, non-profits, farmers and a host of other professionals have started to recognize the importance of this problem. Even the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, has made it her mission through her Let’s Move! campaign to combat hunger and encourage the consumption of healthier food in order to have a more active lifestyle. Access to food has been studied for its potential health risks, such as obesity and respiratory problems.[1] Attention has also been paid to the characteristics of those who are in food deserts and indicate that African American and low-income households are less likely to have grocery stores nearby.[2]

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) American Housing Survey (AHS), provides a national data set that can be used to explore the issue of access to grocery stores. The AHS is a national survey currently conducted in odd-numbered years. In 2003, the AHS began asking people whether or not they had a grocery or drug store within one mile of their home. The same question was asked in 2005.

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Gender Inequality Visualizations

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, we at DASIL have found some great visualizations on the web that speak to gender inequality. At DASIL, we do host a few visualizations that speak to economic inequality in the US, but we’d like to highlight some other areas of inequality here.

The New York Times found that more men named John are C.E.O.s than all female C.E.O.s combined. They also explore the breakdown of gender in Congress.

UN’s Global Pulse has a great map showing the number of tweets about various topics—including gender inequality, education, and discrimination. It’s a great way to look at global opinion on many issues.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations put together an interactive map of various statistics from the Gender Landrights Database. The link here will show you the percent of female agricultural holders in various countries.

Finally, at DASIL we have several visualizations that point to other factors of gender inequality. Two striking ones are Mean Income by Age, Race, and Gender, and Hourly Wages by Education and Gender. Each of these interactive graphs will let you select which combinations of variables you’d like to compare.

Wages by Education and Gender comparing females with a high school education and females with no high school degree

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