An exploration of the relationship between school poverty rates and students’ perceptions of empowerment: student-staff relationships, equitable roles, & classroom sense of community

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Applied Developmental Science




This study explores the association between school-level poverty rates and young peoples’ perceptions of student empowerment, drawing on survey and administrative data from a large urban district. Participants included 29,318 diverse youth in grades 6-12 from 211 schools. We used multilevel linear regression models to estimate the relationships between school poverty rates and students’ reports of positive relationships, equitable roles, and a sense of community. Results indicated that youth attending schools with higher poverty rates were less likely to report empowering school climates than their peers from schools serving more affluent students. We also found a strong correlation between school-level poverty rates and student racial composition. Findings suggest that young people who attend racially segregated schools with concentrated poverty would likely benefit from greater opportunities for relationship building, power-sharing, and community building. Such efforts may also strengthen other domains of youth development, including academic achievement and positive identity.


Social Work