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Census Bureau Releases New School Enrollment Data

Release Number CB20-TPS.71

OCT. 7, 2020 — Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the report "School Enrollment in the United States: 2018" that examines the characteristics of people enrolled in school at all levels using statistics from the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey.  This report does not reflect any possible impacts related to COVID-19, but instead serves as a pre-crisis benchmark for future research. The report outlines the current picture of education in America from nursery school through eighth grade, high school, and college undergraduate and graduate students, and compares the latest numbers with historical levels. 

Since 2000, preschool enrollment has grown more slowly than in the period from 1979 to 2000 and the percentage of college students age 30 and over has contracted. High school dropout rates have fallen and college students ages 20 and 21 continue to attend college in high numbers.

Data highlights:

  • The population of nursery school students grew by over 2 million from 1979 to 2000, but only around half a million from 2000 to 2018. In 2018, enrollment in nursery school was 4.8 million, which is 60% of the population of three- and four-year-olds.
  • In 2000, 18% of undergraduate college students were age 30 or older, compared to 14% in 2018.
  • High school dropout rates among those ages 18 to 24 declined from 13% in 2005 to 6% in 2018.
  • In 1960, 19% of the population ages 20 and 21; 9% of the population ages 22 to 24; and 5% of the population ages 25 to 29 were in school. By 2018, these numbers significantly increased to 55%, 28% and 13%, respectively. From 2011 to 2018, enrollment rates dropped among the older age groups but did not change statistically among those ages 20 and 21.

Detailed tabulations, related information and historic data are available on the Census Bureau’s School Enrollment page at <>.

The Current Population Survey, sponsored jointly by the Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the United States.

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Frances Alonzo
Public Information Office


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