Indicators

Enrollment Trends by Age
(Last Updated: May 2015)

In 2013, some 94 percent of 5- to 6-year-olds and 98 percent of 7- to 13-year-olds were enrolled in elementary or secondary school. In that same year, 47 percent of 18- to 19-year-olds and 39 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in postsecondary education. Although the total school enrollment rate of most age groups from 3 to 34 did not change measurably between 2012 and 2013, the enrollment rate of 16- to 17-year-olds was 2 percentage points lower in 2013 than in 2012.

Changes in the number of students enrolled in school can stem from fluctuations in population size or shifts in enrollment rates. Enrollment rates may vary in response to changes in state compulsory attendance requirements, changes in the prevalence of homeschooling, changes in perceptions regarding the value of education (particularly at the preschool and college levels), and changes in the amount of time it takes to complete a degree. From 1990 to 2013, school enrollment rates increased for children ages 3–4 and for each age group from 18 to 34; however, enrollment rates decreased for those ages 5–6 and 7–13 during the same period. For most age groups from 3 to 34, total school enrollment rates did not change measurably between 2012 and 2013. The only exception was for children ages 16–17, whose enrollment rate was lower in 2013 (94 percent) than in 2012 (96 percent).


Figure 1. Percentage of the population ages 3–17 enrolled in school, by age group: October 1990–2013

Figure 1. Percentage of the population ages 3–17 enrolled in school, by age group: October 1990–2013

1 Beginning in 1994, preprimary enrollment data were collected using new procedures. As a result, pre-1994 data may not be comparable to data from 1994 or later.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October Supplement, 1990–2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 103.20.


Between 1990 and 2013, the enrollment rate for children ages 3–4, who are typically enrolled in nursery school or preschool, increased from 44 to 55 percent, with most of the growth occurring between 1990 and 2000. For children ages 5–6, who are typically enrolled in kindergarten or first grade, the enrollment rate fluctuated between 94 and 97 percent in the 1990s, and then declined from 96 percent in 2000 to 94 percent in 2013. The enrollment rate for 5- to 6-year-olds did not change measurably between 2012 and 2013.

The enrollment rate for 7- to 13-year-olds decreased from nearly 100 percent in 1990 to 98 percent in 2000, but did not measurably change between 2000 and 2013 (98 percent). For 14- to 15-year-olds, there was not a measurable change between 1990 and 2000 (both 99 percent) or between 2000 and 2013 (98 percent). Meanwhile, the overall enrollment rate for 16- to 17-year-olds fluctuated between 93 and 94 percent from 1990 to 2000, and between 93 and 96 percent from 2000 to 2013. This age group's enrollment rate was 2 percentage points lower in 2013 (94 percent) than in 2012 (96 percent).


Figure 2. Percentage of the population ages 18–19 enrolled in school, by education level: October 1990–2013

Figure 2. Percentage of the population ages 18–19 enrolled in school, by education level: October 1990–2013

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October Supplement, 1990–2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 103.20.


Young adults at ages 18–19 are typically transitioning into either postsecondary education or the workforce. Between 1990 and 2013, the overall enrollment rate (i.e., enrollment at both the secondary level and the postsecondary level) for young adults ages 18–19 increased from 57 to 67 percent. The enrollment rate during this period for these young adults increased from 15 to 20 percent at the secondary level and from 43 to 47 percent at the postsecondary level. Between 2000 and 2013, the overall enrollment rate for those in this age range increased from 61 to 67 percent; the enrollment rate at the secondary level increased from 16 to 20 percent but was not measurably different at the postsecondary level.


Figure 3. Percentage of the population ages 20–34 enrolled in school, by age group: October 1990–2013

Figure 3. Percentage of the population ages 20–34 enrolled in school, by age group: October 1990–2013

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October Supplement, 1990–2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 103.20.


Most 20- to 34-year-old students are enrolled in college or graduate school. The enrollment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds increased from 29 to 39 percent between 1990 and 2013. Also, the enrollment rates increased from 10 to 13 percent for 25- to 29-year-olds and from 6 to 7 percent for 30- to 34-year-olds. Between 2000 and 2013, enrollment rates for 20- to 24-year-olds increased from 32 to 39 percent and from 11 to 13 percent for 25- to 29-year-olds. The enrollment rate for 30- to 34-year-olds in 2013 (7 percent) was not measurably different from the rate in 2000 (7 percent), but it was lower than the rate in 2010 (8 percent).


Glossary terms: College, Secondary school
Data Source: Current Population Survey (CPS)