Welfare participation, National School Lunch Program, school failure, low-socioeconomic status, multi-racial, Arizona Youth Survey


In the United States, students from low-socioeconomic status and minority ethnic groups graduate from high school at lower rates than their peers. Limited studies exist about the risk and protective factors that affect the disproportionate graduation rates by income and ethnicity. Using the 2016 Arizona Youth Survey data (N = 32,178), this study aims to explore the relationship between the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participation and school failure, and other risk and protective factors from a multi-racial perspective. Logistic regressions were conducted on the total sample and the six ethnic subsamples (i.e., White, Latino, Black, American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Mixed). Results showed a significant difference in school failure between free lunch participants and nonparticipants for the total youth sample and for the White, Latino, Black and Mixed subsamples. However, a significant difference in school failure between free lunch participants and reduced price lunch participants was only found for the total sample but not for any of the six ethnic subsamples. Significant risk factors across most ethnic groups include the participant being suspended from school and peer suspension/dropout. Protective factors across most ethnic groups were family management and school commitment. Findings highlight the need for more culturally responsive interventions to target school failure for low-income students across ethnic groups.

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