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How did the 2008 recession impact schools?


DonorsChoose.org works at addressing educational inequity, which explains our interest in analyzing broader macro economic trends. This time, we were curious about how the great recession of 2008 impacted what teachers from high-poverty versus low-poverty classrooms were requesting on our site. We felt the data represented a broader economic trend as over 50% of America’s high poverty schools have had projects posted on DonorsChoose.org

A graph of materials requests during the 2008 recession

You’ll see that in high-poverty classrooms, the recession led to a 5X increase in the proportion of requests for essential materials like paper, pencils, and dictionaries, as compared to enrichment materials like owl pellets, butterfly cocoons, and field trips. By contrast, in low-poverty classrooms, the recession led to no such increase in the proportion of requests for essential materials. Simply put, our data suggests that the recession had a hugely disparate, regressive impact on our public schools. High-poverty kids found themselves in classrooms without basic resources, while public school kids in middle income and wealthy communities continued to have classrooms stocked with the essentials.

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