ISER Research Matters is our effort to quickly let Alaskans know about
research findings from the Institute of Social and Economic Research
(ISER), at the University of Alaska Anchorage. We'll post these
periodically on our Web site and also distribute them by e-mail. If
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Research Matters No. 46. New Students in Anchorage School District:
Where Are They From?
December 9, 2009
In 2008, enrollment in the Anchorage School District was considerably
higher than the district had expected, and some Alaskans—including the
mayor of Anchorage and the superintendent of schools—thought the spike
in enrollment might be due to more families moving to Anchorage from
rural Alaska communities. ISER has a long-standing interest in migration
patterns in Alaska, and researchers decided to track where the new
students from other Alaska districts were coming from—and why.
With help from the Anchorage School District, ISER surveyed hundreds of
parents or guardians of students who had recently transferred from other
Alaska school districts to Anchorage. A new study by Marie Lowe, an
assistant professor of anthropology with ISER, reports the results.
• By far the largest number of new students came from the Mat-Su
Borough, but new students came from almost all of Alaska's 53 school
districts. The largest numbers from off-road communities came from the
Bethel and Nome census areas.
• More than 40% of the new students moved independently—that is, they
moved but their parents didn't. There were various reasons why students
moved alone, but the most common ones included being sent in to
Anchorage to live with other relatives and changes in custody arrangements.
• When entire families of the new students moved, the reason they cited
most often was for better employment opportunities. A significant share
of families from off-road places also said they had moved for better
• When asked what they needed in Anchorage, new families most often
cited affordable housing. Other needs included jobs, affordable food,
and health care.
We did not have access to data on new Anchorage students in earlier
years—so we weren't able to determine how the number and characteristics
of new Anchorage students in 2008 compared with patterns in earlier
years. But this ISER survey—which we believe to be the first of its
kind—now provides a benchmark for any future look at students and
families moving to Anchorage from other parts of the state.
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