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The segregation of young students from low-income families — brought on by climbing Latino enrollments and the departure of white and middle-class families — has worsened across the country over a 15-year period, contributing to widening achievement gaps along economic and racial lines, a new study has concluded.

In 2000, the typical child from a family living below the poverty line attended an elementary school where 45% of those enrolled were children from middle-class families. By 2015, that figure fell to 36% nationwide, according to a UC Berkeley and University of Maryland study. Researchers compared data for elementary-school students at more than 14,000 school districts nationwide over a 15-year period, ending in 2015.

“The growing segregation of the haves and have-nots over the past two decades” is particularly concerning in light of other research indicating that students from low-income families make less academic progress as they “come to dominate district enrollments,” said study director Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.

Other research has offered evidence that learning gaps among students have widened further during the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit harder in low-income, predominately Latino and Black communities, where families had fewer resources to respond and recover.

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