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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Census Bureau Data Reveal Decline in School Enrollment

Press Release Number CB21-TPS.120

*Errata Note: 10/20/21 - The headline of this release has been updated.



OCT. 19, 2021 — U.S. school enrollment dropped by 2.9 million from 2019 to 2020, with enrollment among the under-35 population dipping to its lowest level (52.4% of the total population) in over 20 years, according to data tables released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The tables examine school enrollment at all levels during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, based on statistics from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS).

Pre-School Enrollment

  • The percentage of kids ages 3 and 4 enrolled in school fell from 54% in 2019 to 40% in 2020, the first time since 1996 that fewer than half of the children in this age group were enrolled.
  • Enrollment in nursery schools fell by 25% (from 4.7 million to 3.5 million), and in kindergarten by 9% (4.1 million to 3.7 million).
  • The number of 3–4-year-old children of working mothers enrolled in nursery school declined by 35% from 2019 to 2020, compared with a 10% decrease of other enrolled 3-4 year-olds (the overall decrease was 26%).

Elementary and Secondary Enrollment

  • The estimated distribution of kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment by race and Hispanic origin was statistically unchanged from 2019 to 2020: 50% non-Hispanic White; 25% Hispanic; 15% Black; and 5% Asian.
  • Additional data available here.

College Enrollment

College enrollment fell to the lowest level since 2007. Most of the decline took place in two-year colleges, which had their lowest enrollment levels in 20 years.

  • Enrollment in graduate school held steady. Graduate school enrollment in 2020 was 3.8 million, not statistically different from 2019.
  • Among college students in 2020, 53% were non-Hispanic White, 20% were Hispanic, 15% were Black, and 10% were Asian.

Detailed tabulations, related information and historic data are available on the Census Bureau’s School Enrollment webpage at <www.census.gov/topics/education/school-enrollment.html>.

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 U.S. population.

Data collection challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected some of the results reported here. Overall response to the October CPS declined from 84% in 2019 to 81% in 2020. During the pandemic, students may have continued their enrollment (i.e., to study) but in less traditional ways such as remote learning or by completing virtual or paper assignments. The various learning options increased the potential for misclassification of enrollment status, potentially artificially decreasing some enrollment estimates.

No news release associated with these products. Tip sheet only.



Leslie Malone
Public Information Office
301-763-3030 or
877-861-2010 (U.S. and Canada only)


Page Last Revised - October 20, 2021
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