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Census 2000 Brief: School Enrollment: 2000

Report Number C2KBR-26
Jennifer Cheeseman Day with Amie Jamieson

According to Census 2000, more than onefourth of the U.S. population aged 3 and older attended school in the spring of 2000. The 76.6 million students included 5.0 million enrolled in nursery school, 4.2 million in kindergarten, 33.7 million in elementary school, 16.4 million in high school, 14.4 million in college (undergraduate), and 3.1 million in graduate school.1 This report, part of a series that presents population and housing data collected by Census 2000, provides a profile of the student population in the United States.2

Decennial censuses have included a question on school enrollment since 1840. Early versions of the enrollment question asked only if each person in the household had attended school (excluding Sunday school) within the last year. By 1890, the question requested the number of months each person aged 5 to 17 attended school in the previous year, with instructions to enter zero if the person did not attend school at all. By 1910, the enrollment question dropped the request for the number of months in school, inquiring only if the person had been enrolled at some time since September of the previous year. In the 1930 census, the term “college” was added to the enrollment question. In 1940, a question on highest level or grade attended was added to determine both the grade enrolled and the highest grade completed. In addition, the school enrollment item limited the time frame to “enrollment since February 1” of the census year, a concept still in use today. The 1960 census introduced a follow-up question on type of school — public or private/parochial. In 1990, the question on “level of attendance” was changed to ask for the “highest degree or level completed.” This modification improved the data collected on educational attainment, but limited the detail on level of enrollment.

Census 2000 collected information on the school enrollment of people aged 3 and over, using the two-part question shown in Figure 1. These questions provided information on the number of people enrolled in school, their level of schooling, and whether the school was public or private. Data on school enrollment are used by a number of federal agencies for funding allocations, program planning, and program implementation.

1 The estimates in this report are based on responses from a sample of the population. As with all surveys, estimates may vary from the actual values because of sampling variation or other factors. All statements made in this report have undergone statistical testing and are significant at the 90-percent confidence level unless otherwise noted.

2 The text of this report discusses data for the United States, including the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are shown in Table 1 and Figure 6.


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