School Enrollment and Type of School
School enrollment data are used to assess the socioeconomic condition of school-age children. Government agencies also require these data for funding allocations and program planning and implementation.
Data on school enrollment and grade or level attending were derived from answers to Question 10. People were classified as enrolled in school if they were attending a public or private school or college at any time during the 3 months prior to the time of interview. The question included instructions to "include only nursery or preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, home school, and schooling which leads to a high school diploma, or a college degree". Respondents who did not answer the enrollment question were assigned the enrollment status and type of school of a person with the same age, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino origin whose residence was in the same or nearby area.
School enrollment is only recorded if the schooling advances a person toward an elementary school certificate, a high school diploma, or a college, university, or professional school (such as law or medicine) degree. Tutoring or correspondence schools are included if credit can be obtained from a public or private school or college. People enrolled in "vocational, technical, or business school" such as post secondary vocational, trade, hospital school, and on job training were not reported as enrolled in school. Field interviewers were instructed to classify individuals who were home schooled as enrolled in private school. The guide sent out with the mail questionnaire includes instructions for how to classify home schoolers.
Enrolled in Public and Private School
Includes people who attended school in the reference period and indicated they were enrolled by marking one of the questionnaire categories for "public school, public college," or "private school, private college, home school." The instruction guide defines a public school as "any school or college controlled and supported primarily by a local, county, state, or federal government." Private schools are defined as schools supported and controlled primarily by religious organizations or other private groups. Home schools are defined as "parental-guided education outside of public or private school for grades 1-12." Respondents who marked both the "public" and "private" boxes are edited to the first entry, "public."
From 1999-2007, in the American Community Survey, people reported to be enrolled in "public school, public college" or "private school, private college" were classified by grade or level according to responses to Question 10b, "What grade or level was this person attending?" Seven levels were identified: "nursery school, preschool;" "kindergarten;" elementary "grade 1 to grade 4" or "grade 5 to grade 8;" high school "grade 9 to grade 12;" "college undergraduate years (freshman to senior);" and "graduate or professional school (for example: medical, dental, or law school)."
In 2008, the school enrollment questions had several changes. "Home school" was explicitly included in the "private school, private college" category. For question 10b the categories changed to the following "Nursery school, preschool," "Kindergarten," "Grade 1 through grade 12," "College undergraduate years (freshman to senior)," "Graduate or professional school beyond a bachelor's degree (for example: MA or PhD program, or medical or law school)." The survey question allowed a write-in for the grades enrolled from 1-12.
Since 1999, the American Community Survey enrollment status question (Question 10a) refers to "regular school or college," while the 1996-1998 American Community Survey did not restrict reporting to "regular" school, and contained an additional category for the "vocational, technical or business school."
The 1996-1998 American Community Survey used the educational attainment question to estimate level of enrollment for those reported to be enrolled in school, and had a single year write-in for the attainment of grades 1 through 11. Grade levels estimated using the attainment question were not consistent with other estimates, so a new question specifically asking grade or level of enrollment was added starting with the 1999 American Community Survey questionnaire.
Beginning in 2006, the population universe in the American Community Survey includes people living in group quarters. Data users may see slight differences in levels of school enrollment in any given geographic area due to the inclusion of this population. The extent of this difference, if any, depends on the type of group quarters present and whether the group quarters population makes up a large proportion of the total population. For example, in areas that are home to several colleges and universities, the percent of individuals 18 to 24 who were enrolled in college or graduate school would increase, as people living in college dormitories are now included in the universe.
Data about level of enrollment are also collected from the decennial Census and from the Current Population Survey (CPS). ACS data is generally comparable to data from the Census. Although it should be noted that the ACS reference period was 3 months preceding the date of interview, while the Census 2000 reference period was any time since February 1, 2000. For more information about the comparability of ACS and CPS data, please see the link for the Fact Sheet from the CPS School Enrollment page.
Data on school enrollment also are collected and published by other federal, state, and local government agencies. Because these data are obtained from administrative records of school systems and institutions of higher learning, they are only roughly comparable to data from population censuses and surveys. Differences in definitions and concepts, subject matter covered, time references, and data collection methods contribute to the differences in estimates. At the local level, the difference between the location of the institution and the residence of the student may affect the comparability of census and administrative data because census data are collected from and based on a respondent's residence. Differences between the boundaries of school districts and census geographic units also may affect these comparisons.