Characteristics of Homeschooled Students and Their Families
Despite research limitations on documenting the number of homeschoolers, recent research on homeschooling helps suggest some characteristics of students and families who homeschool. An extensive 1998 study of homeschoolers, although based on a convenience sample, suggests that homeschoolers differ from the general population in parents' educational attainment, household income, parents' marital status, and family size (Rudner 1999)1. Other research suggests that although homeschooling in the United States may have primarily been a trend within a homogeneous subgroup of white, middle-class, Christian families, growth in homeschooling may be reaching a broader range of American families and values (McDowell et al. 2000, Lines 2000a, Welner & Welner 1999).
The Parent-NHES:1999 provides descriptive data about the characteristics of homeschoolers in the United States and their families. This report includes students who were homeschooled only and students who were homeschooled and enrolled in school for 25 hours or less per week. As shown in table 1, about four out of five homeschoolers were homeschooled only (82 percent) and one out of five homeschoolers were enrolled in public or private schools part-time (18 percent).
Table 2 shows the number of all students by selected characteristics, the number of homeschooled students by those same characteristics, and for each characteristic the percentage of students who are homeschooled. As shown in table 2, the percentage of students who were homeschooled in 1999 differed based on various characteristics of students and their families. Depending on these student and family characteristics, the percentage of homeschoolers among students ranged from 0.7 to 4.6 percent. Characteristics that distinguished high percentages of homeschooling were two-parent families, especially when only one parent participated in the labor force; large family size; and parents' high educational attainment. The percentage of students who were homeschooled was similar for both boys and girls; across elementary, middle, and high school grades; and across the four income ranges used in the analysis.
Table 3 further explores the characteristics that distinguish homeschoolers by comparing the characteristics of homeschoolers to those of all students and to the characteristics of nonhomeschoolers. The similarities and differences between homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers are discussed in detail below.
Grade equivalent of homeschooled students
Homeschoolers distribute over the grade groupings in much the same way as nonhomeschoolers (see table 3). While it may appear that a higher percentage of homeschoolers were in kindergarten compared to nonhomeschoolers, the difference was not statistically significant.
Students' race/ethnicity and sex
A greater percentage of homeschoolers compared to nonhomeschoolers were white, non-Hispanic-75 percent compared to 65 percent. At the same time, a smaller percentage of homeschoolers were black, non-Hispanic students and a smaller percentage were Hispanic students. Girls and boys were equally represented among homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers.
Number of children living in the household
A much greater percentage of homeschoolers than nonhomeschoolers came from families with three or more children-62 percent of homeschooled students were part of families with three or more children compared to 44 percent of nonhomeschoolers. Homeschoolers were just as likely to be an only child as nonhomeschoolers and were less likely than nonhomeschoolers to have just one sibling.
Number of parents living in the household and labor force participation
In order to homeschool, parents may need to dedicate a significant amount of time to schooling their children. Because of the time required, homeschooling usually involves two parents-one who participates in the labor force and one who homeschools. Rudner (1999) found that 97 percent of homeschooling parents were married couples. The Parent-NHES:1999 shows the percentage of homeschooled students living in two-parent households was much higher than the percentage for nonhomeschoolers-80 percent of homeschooled students lived in two-parent families compared to 66 percent for nonhomeschoolers. In addition, 52 percent of homeschoolers came from two-parent families where only one parent was participating in the labor force compared to 19 percent for nonhomeschoolers.
Although Rudner found that the median household income of homeschooling families was higher than the median household income of families with children nationwide, the Parent-NHES:1999 indicates that the household income of homeschoolers, reported in ranges from less than $25,000 to over $75,000, is the same as the household income of nonhomeschoolers. The same percentage of homeschooled and nonhomeschooled students lived in households with annual incomes of $50,000 or less (64 percent)2.
Parents' highest educational attainment
Parents' highest educational attainment, however, was clearly associated with homeschooling. Parents of homeschoolers had higher levels of educational attainment than did parents of nonhomeschoolers. Table 3 shows that 37 percent of parents of nonhomeschoolers did not complete any schooling beyond high school compared to 19 percent of parents of homeschoolers. Conversely, 25 percent of parents of homeschoolers attained bachelor's degrees as their highest degree, compared to 16 percent of parents of nonhomeschoolers.
Urbanicity refers to the classification of households as urban or rural. There are two classifications of urban that are referred to in this report as cities and towns. Places not classified as urban are rural. The percentage of homeschoolers living in a city was about 9 percentage points lower than the percentage for nonhomeschoolers (53 and 62 percent, respectively). There were no statistically significant differences between the percentages of homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers living in towns or rural areas. For more information on urbanicity, see the Methodology and Technical Notes section of this report.
1. Rudner's study is based on a survey administered by Bob Jones University to a sample drawn from parents who used the university's standardized testing program (Welner & Welner 1999).
2.An additional analysis of household income in two-parent families where only one parent was participating in the labor force also shows no difference between homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers (data not shown in tables).