Education research has consistently demonstrated that students’ socioeconomic status is correlated with their performance on standardized tests.[*] The percentage of students who qualify for the National School Lunch Program is a common measure of a group’s socioeconomic status, since eligibility for the program is based on the household income of a student’s parents or guardians.[9] Qualifying students receive a federally subsidized free or reduced-price lunch.

In 2000, the earliest year for which standardized national data are available that include both Michigan and Florida, 44.3 percent of Florida students were NSLP-eligible, while only 29.3 percent of Michigan students were (see Graphic 5). Michigan’s portion of NSLP-eligible students increased more rapidly than Florida’s from 2000 to 2011, but the Sunshine State still maintained a higher proportion of qualifying students in 2011, the latest year for which data are available: 56.0 percent, compared to Michigan’s 45.4 percent.[†]

Graphic 5: Percentage of Students Qualifying for the National School Lunch Program in Michigan and Florida, 2000-2011

School Year

Michigan

Florida

Percentage
Difference

2000

29.31%

44.26%

51.0%

2001

29.29%

44.32%

51.3%

2002

31.03%

44.62%

43.8%

2003

30.98%

45.23%

46.0%

2004

32.45%

45.98%

41.7%

2005

33.39%

47.36%

41.8%

2006

35.01%

45.77%

30.7%

2007

35.98%

45.20%

25.6%

2008

37.05%

45.58%

23.0%

2009

41.07%

49.57%

20.7%

2010

44.94%

53.46%

19.0%

2011

45.35%

55.97%

23.4%

Source: Author’s calculations based on “Common Core of Data,” (National Center for Education Statistics; United States Department of Education), http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/ (accessed Marchn 28, 2012).

Throughout the last decade, as Graphic 6 shows, the proportion of Florida students who were NSLP-eligible was greater than not only that of Michigan, but also that of the United States as a whole. Nationally, 47.6 percent of students were NSLP-eligible in 2011.

Graphic 6: Percentage of Students Qualifying for the National School Lunch Program in the United States, Michigan and Florida, 2000-2011

Graphic 6: Percentage of Students Qualifying for the National School Lunch Program in the United States, Michigan and Florida, 2000-2011 - click to enlarge

Source: Author’s calculations based on “Common Core of Data,” (National Center for Education Statistics; United States Department of Education), http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/ (accessed March 28, 2012).


[*] The first major study to demonstrate this relationship dates back to 1966. See James S. Coleman et al., Equality of Educational Opportunity (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office for the National Center for Education Statistics, 1966).

[†] Note that Florida’s student population had a lower socioeconomic profile in every way when measured by NSLP eligibility. In each year from 2000 to 2011, Florida had a higher percentage of students qualifying for a free lunch; in each year from 2000 to 2011, Florida had a higher percentage of students qualifying for a reduced-price lunch.


[9] For more information about this program, see “National School Lunch Program,” (United States Department of Agriculture), http://goo.gl/7YtpI (accessed May 31, 2013).