(Re)Defining Urban Education: A Conceptual Review and Empirical Exploration of the Definition of Urban Education

Richard O. Welsh, Walker A. Swain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Generally, educational studies do not problematize the definition of urban education or examine the positionality of sites along a spectrum of urban districts and schools. This study addresses the definitional gap by (a) examining the conceptualization of urban education through an integrative review of prior definitional research and (b) exploring how an urban district may be defined in empirical terms. Our findings indicate six categories are typically used to define urban education: (a) population/location/geography, (b) enrollment, (c) demographic composition of students, (d) resources in schools, (e) disparities and educational inequality, and (f) social and economic context. The results indicate that deficit-oriented language permeates prevailing definitions of urban education and that large-city-centered conceptualizations of urban education may overlook a substantial number of smaller districts with similar levels of educational inequality and diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-100
Number of pages11
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020



  • descriptive analysis
  • education equity
  • education policy
  • mixed methods
  • urban districts
  • urban education
  • urban schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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