New NCES Homeschooling Data!

Record: Amber Noel, Patrick Stark, and Jeremy Redford, Parent and Family Involvement in Education, from the National Household Education Survey Program of 2012, (NCES 2013-028) (U.S. Department of Education: Washington, D.C., 2013)[Available Here]

Summary: Every four years the National Center for Education Statistics’ enormous National Household Education Survey includes questions about homeschooling.  The results of the latest round of homeschooling questions (from the 2011 survey) have just been released.  This massive survey (n=17,563) provides us with the best data by far on homeschooling, consisting as it does of a representative sample of the entire population of the United States.  You can read the preliminary results in tables 7 and 8 of the latest survey here.

Four years ago I summarized what previous rounds of the NCES survey had uncovered about homeschooling.  Here I will update that summary, incorporating the newest data.

It is important to note at the outset that comparisons between this round of data with previous years is not entirely legitimate because the survey technique has been changed.  The survey has historically been conducted by telephone landline, but given declining use of telephones, this round was conducted by mail.  Nevertheless, here are the findings:

In terms of overall numbers, homeschooling continues to grow, from an estimated 1.1 million in 2003 to 1.5 million in 2007 and now to 1.77 million in 2011, which is 3.4% of the overall school-age population.

Whereas the 2007 data had shown a shift toward more homeschoolers being girls, this time only 51% of homeschooled children surveyed were girls, a return to historic patterns.

Perhaps the most dramatic number in the data is the percentage of homeschoolers who are white.  In previous years the survey has found that around 77% of homeschooled children are white.  This time the number was only 68%, with dramatic rises both among African Americans (from 4% in 2007 to 8% in 2011), Hispanics (5.3% in 2003, 9.8% in 2007, 15% in 2011), and less dramatic but still significant growth among other minority groups as well.

As for parental motivation, this new data for the first time disaggregated desire for religious instruction and desire for moral instruction.  In 2007 a single “religious or moral” category was claimed as a motivator by 83% of respondents, with 36% listing it as their most important reason for homeschooling.  This time 64% claim a religious motive and 77% a moral motive.  Religion is the most important variable for only 16%.  Moral is most important for 5%.  This is a huge drop off from previous years’ data and is probably the second most surprising finding from the 2011 data.

It is important to keep in mind that even with such a huge sample, the number of homeschoolers who responded to this survey is relatively small (around 600), which means that an anomaly of only a few respondents can skew the data.  That’s probably what happened in 2007 to give a higher percentage of girls than boys and a lower percentage of African Americans than usual.  Could it have happened in 2011 with whites and with religious motivation?  If future years see a return to earlier numbers then this one will look like an anomaly.  But if we continue to see fewer white homeschoolers and less religious motivation in future reports, we might with justification hazard that homeschooler demographics are increasingly reflecting the growing diversity of the broader society in the United States.

Milton Gaither, Messiah College, author of Homeschool: An American History.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in reviews are not the official views of ICHER or of its members.  For more information about ICHER’s Reviews, please see the « About these Reviews » Section.

This entry was posted in Gender, Parental Motivation, Race/Ethnicity, Religion, Research Methodology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to New NCES Homeschooling Data!

  1. I note that these results were NOT surprising to many people in the homeschooling community, who saw flaws with the test question in previous years’ surveys that asked about religious OR moral reasons for homeschooling in the same question, and who saw flaws with conflating results from questions about “reasons” for homeschooling and the MOST IMPORTANT “reason” for homeschooling. I believe I wrote about these problems to you several years ago, explaining why the data and/or interpretations from these questions failed to represent homeschoolers accurately.

    We also have seen much more diversity in our homeschooling groups and organizations in recent years, including in employment status/family makeup, income level, and race. But, ahh, it’s just anecdotal and I was probably just seeing things….

    Not surprising to those with homeschooling boots on the ground, so to speak.

  2. Isaac D says:

    Any word on when the full data set will be released?

    • Milton Gaither says:

      No, but Rob Kunzman is going to inquire to see if he can find anything out. If he does, I’ll post another response.

      • Milton Gaither says:

        Sarah Carroll, who works for NCES, tells us that a report focused on homeschooling is currently in development, but there is as yet no projected publication date.

  3. Vicki says:

    Interesting results! We are seeing an increase in home schooling families in Mexico -both among Mexicans as well as ex-pats.

Comments are closed.