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Homeschooling on the Rise During COVID-19 Pandemic

Education

Homeschooling on the Rise During COVID-19 Pandemic

Education

Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey Shows Significant Increase in Homeschooling Rates in Fall 2020

Homeschooling is a legal instructional option in all 50 states and national homeschooling rates grew rapidly from 1999 to 2012 but had since remained steady at around 3.3%.

However, the global COVID-19 pandemic has sparked new interest in homeschooling and the appeal of alternative school arrangements has suddenly exploded.

So, how significantly have homeschooling rates increased during the pandemic? 

It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s experimental Household Pulse Survey, the first data source to offer both a national and state-level look at the impact of COVID-19 on homeschooling rates, shows a substantial increase from last spring — when the pandemic took hold — to the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Using a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. households, the survey shows homeschooling is notably higher than the national benchmarks and offers a glimpse of changes in homeschooling patterns during the pandemic.

We compare survey results from the spring of the 2019-20 school year to results in the fall of the 2020-21 school year to measure the pandemic's impact on homeschooling.

Meeting Education, Health Needs

In the first week (April 23-May 5) of Phase 1 of the Household Pulse Survey, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported homeschooling .

By fall, 11.1% of households with school-age children reported homeschooling (Sept. 30-Oct. 12). A clarification was added to the school enrollment question to make sure households were reporting true homeschooling rather than virtual learning through a public or private school.

That change represents an increase of 5.6 percentage points and a doubling of U.S. households that were homeschooling at the start of the 2020-2021 school year compared to the prior year.

It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children. 

From the much-discussed “pandemic pods,” (small groups of students gathering outside a formal school setting for in-person instruction) to a reported influx of parent inquiries about stand-alone virtual schools, private schools and homeschooling organizations, American parents are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin

Homeschooling rates are increasing across race groups and ethnicities.

In households where respondents identified as Black or African American (Table 1), the proportion homeschooling increased by five times, from 3.3% (April 23-May 5) to 16.1% in the fall (Sept. 30-Oct. 12). The size of the increases for the other Race/Hispanic origin groups were not statistically different from one another.

 

Differences by State

Some U.S. states had much larger increases in homeschooling rates for the 2020-2021 school year than others.

Massachusetts, for example, jumped from 1.5% to 12.1% while many other states did not show a significant change.

Possible contributing factors include local homeschooling variation that predated the pandemic, local rates of coronavirus infections, and local decisions about how school is being conducted during the pandemic. 

 

Differences by Metro Area

Homeschooling rates vary among metropolitan areas, as well (Table 3).

Among the 15 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), for example, the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH MSA, went from 0.9% in the spring of 2020 to 8.9% by the fall.

In contrast, the rate in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA, MSA was not significantly different (4.2% and 5.2%) for the same period.

Additionally, the rates are likely affected by local rates of coronavirus infections and local public school decisions about modes of instruction.

 

The Household Pulse Survey is designed to provide near-real-time information about the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American households.

Education is one of many topics covered by the survey and the data are not designed to provide a highly detailed look at the many different types of educational arrangements and innovations pursued by households in this unusual school year.

 

Casey Eggleston is a research mathematical statistician in the Census Bureau’s Center for Behavioral Science Measurement.

Jason Fields is the senior researcher for Demographic Programs and the Survey of Income and Program Participation in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.

 

 

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