Data on school enrollment were derived from answers to questionnaire item 11, which was asked of a sample of persons. Persons were classified as enrolled in school if they reported attending a "regular" public or private school or college at any time between February 1, 1990, and the time of enumeration. The question included instructions to "include only nursery school, kindergarten, elementary school, and schooling which would lead to a high school diploma or a college degree" as regular school. Instructions included in the 1990 respondent instruction guide, which was mailed with the census questionnaire, further specified that enrollment in a trade or business school, company training, or tutoring were not to be included unless the course would be accepted for credit at a regular elementary school, high school, or college. Persons who did not answer the enrollment question were assigned the enrollment status and type of school of a person with the same age, race or Hispanic origin, and, at older ages, sex, whose residence was in the same or a nearby area.
Public and Private School
Includes persons who attended school in the reference period and indicated they were enrolled by marking one of the questionnaire categories for either "public school, public college" or "private school, private college." The instruction guide defines a public school as "any school or college controlled and supported by a local, county, State, or Federal Government." "Schools supported and controlled primarily by religious organizations or other private groups" are defined as private. Persons who filled both the "public" and "private" circles are edited to the first entry, "public."
Level of School in Which Enrolled
Persons who were enrolled in school were classified as enrolled in "preprimary school," "elementary or high school," or "college" according to their response to question 12 (years of school completed or highest degree received). Persons who were enrolled and reported completing nursery school or less were classified as enrolled in "preprimary school," which includes kindergarten. Similarly, enrolled persons who had completed at least kindergarten, but not high school, were classified as enrolled in elementary or high school. Enrolled persons who reported completing high school or some college or having received a postsecondary degree were classified as enrolled in "college." Enrolled persons who reported completing the twelfth grade but receiving "NO DIPLOMA" were classified as enrolled in high school. (For more information on level of school, see the discussion under "Educational Attainment.")
School enrollment questions have been included in the census since 1840; grade attended was first asked in 1940; type of school was first asked in 1960. Before 1940, the enrollment question in various censuses referred to attendance in the preceding six months or the preceding year. In 1940, the reference was to attendance in the month preceding the census, and in the 1950 and subsequent censuses, the question referred to attendance in the two months preceding the census date.
Until the 1910 census, there were no instructions limiting the kinds of schools in which enrollment was to be counted. Starting in 1910, the instructions indicated that attendance at "school, college, or any educational institution" was to be counted. In 1930 an instruction to include "night school" was added. In the 1940 instructions, night school, extension school, or vocational school were included only if the school was part of the regular school system. Correspondence school work of any kind was excluded. In the 1950 instructions, the term "regular school" was introduced, and it was defined as schooling which "advances a person towards an elementary or high school diploma or a college, university, or professional school degree." Vocational, trade, or business schools were excluded unless they were graded and considered part of a regular school system. On-the-job training was excluded, as was nursery school. Instruction by correspondence was excluded unless it was given by a regular school and counted towards promotion.
In 1960, the question used the term "regular school or college" and a similar, though expanded, definition of "regular" was included in the instructions, which continued to exclude nursery school. Because of the census' use of mailed questionnaires, the 1960 census was the first in which instructions were written for the respondent as well as enumerators. In the 1970 census, the questionnaire used the phrase "regular school or college" and included instructions to "count nursery school, kindergarten, and schooling which leads to an elementary school certificate, high school diploma, or college degree." Instructions in a separate document specified that to be counted as regular school, nursery school must include instruction as an important and integral phase of its program, and continued the exclusion of vocational, trade, and business schools. The 1980 census question was very similar to the 1970 question, but the separate instruction booklet did not require that nursery school include substantial instructional content in order to be counted.
The age range for which enrollment data have been obtained and published has varied over the censuses. Information on enrollment was recorded for persons of all ages in the 1930 and 1940 and 1970 through 1990; for persons under age 30, in 1950; and for persons age 5 to 34, in 1960. Most of the published enrollment figures referred to persons age 5 to 20 in the 1930 census, 5 to 24 in 1940, 5 to 29 in 1950, 5 to 34 in 1960, 3 to 34 in 1970, and 3 years old and over in 1980. This growth in the age group whose enrollment was reported reflects increased interest in the number of children in preprimary schools and in the number of older persons attending colleges and universities.
In the 1950 and subsequent censuses, college students were enumerated where they lived while attending college, whereas in earlier censuses, they generally were enumerated at their parental homes. This change should not affect the comparability of national figures on college enrollment since 1940; however, it may affect the comparability over time of enrollment figures at sub-national levels.
Type of school was first introduced in the 1960 census, where a separate question asked the enrolled persons whether they were in a "public" or "private" school. Since the 1970 census, the type of school was incorporated into the response categories for the enrollment question and the terms were changed to "public," "parochial," and "other private." In the 1980 census, "private, church related" and "private, not church related" replaced "parochial" and "other private."
Grade of enrollment was first available in the 1940 census, where it was obtained from responses to the question on highest grade of school completed. Enumerators were instructed that "for a person still in school, the last grade completed will be the grade preceding the one in which he or she was now enrolled." From 1950 to 1980, grade of enrollment was obtained from the highest grade attended in the two-part question used to measure educational attainment. (For more information, see the discussion under "Educational Attainment.") The form of the question from which level of enrollment was derived in the 1990 census most closely corresponds to the question used in 1940. While data from prior censuses can be aggregated to provide levels of enrollment comparable to the 1990 census, 1990 data cannot be disaggregated to show single grade of enrollment as in previous censuses.
Data on school enrollment were also collected and published by other Federal, State, and local government agencies. Where these data were obtained from administrative records of school systems and institutions of higher learning, they were only roughly comparable with data from population censuses and household surveys because of differences in definitions and concepts, subject matter covered, time references, and enumeration methods. 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. Differences between the boundaries of school districts and census geographic units also may affect these comparisons.