Charter schools historically serve proportionately more students of color and more students from low-income communities than district schools. In the past 16 years (2005-06 to 2020-21 school years), charter schools have consistently had a higher portion of students of color compared to district schools. According to the most recently available data (2020-21 school year), 69.3% of charter school students, versus 53.4% of district school students, were students of color. Charter schools have also consistently served a higher percentage of students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL) from the 2005-06 to 2020-21 school years. In the 2020-21 school year, 59.6% of charter school students received FRPL compared to 53% in district schools.

Black and Hispanic students composed approximately 55% to 60% of the charter school population from 2005-06 to 2020-21. In district schools, the same groups of students had, at most, 42% of the enrollment share from the 2005-06 to 2020-21 school year.

In both charter and district schools, the percentage of students who are Hispanic, Asian, and of other ethnicities (including American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Hawaiian Native, and Two or More Races) has increased since the 2005-06 school year, while percentages of Black and White students have decreased slightly. Hispanic students in charter schools saw the highest percentage of enrollment growth, increasing from 22% of all charter school students in 2005-06 to 35.1% in 2020-21.

For state-by-state breakdowns of charter and district school demographics in the most recent available school year, please see the Tables and Figures section on the National Alliance’s data dashboard.

Table 2.1: Charter School Student Demographics

“Note: "Other"; represents the total of "American Indian / Alaska Native / Pacific Islander / Hawaiian Native / Two or More Races", and missing data. Race / ethnicity and FRPL data are from authors’ calculation using the 2009-10 through 2020-21 Common Core of Data (CCD).

Table 2.2: District School Student Demographics

About the Authors

Cynthia Xu
Yueting "Cynthia" Xu

Senior Manager, Data and Research

Yueting "Cynthia" worked as an ESL instructor and education consultant in Philadelphia prior to joining the research team at the National Alliance. During her undergraduate years at Sun Yat-sen University, she studied English language & literature and Economics. She received her master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania with dual majors in ESL education and statistical measurement & research.