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Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 2007
NCES 2010-004
April 2010

Student Enrollment Patterns and Trends from 1993 to 2007

The NHES data show that almost three-fourths of students in grades 1 through 12 (73 percent) were enrolled in assigned public schools in 2007 (table 1). Sixteen percent of students were enrolled in chosen public schools, followed by 9 percent of students in religious private schools and 3 percent of students in nonsectarian private schools.

There were no measurable differences in the percentage of students enrolled across school types when data for 2003 are compared with data for 2007. However, several changes in school enrollment patterns have occurred over a longer time period dating from 1993. The percentage of 1st- through 12th-grade students enrolled in assigned public schools decreased from 80 to 73 percent between 1993 and 2007 (figure 1). This decrease was concurrent with an increase in the percentage of 1st- through 12th-grade students in chosen public schools, as the percentage enrollment rose from 11 to 16 percent between 1993 and 2007. Over the same time period, the percentage of students enrolled in nonsectarian private schools increased from 2 to 3 percent.

Public, assigned schools

Patterns and trends: 1993 to 2007
From 1993 to 2007, the percentage of students enrolled in assigned public schools decreased (table 1 and figure 1). With some exceptions, the overall trend away from enrollment in assigned public schools between 1993 and 2007 was evident across student and household characteristics. The trend away from attending assigned public schools was evident for White students; Black students; and nonpoor students;10 students whose parents' highest level of education11 was some college or graduate or professional school; students in two-parent households; and students living in all regions of the country. No measurable difference was found in the percentage enrollment in assigned public schools from 1993 to 2007 for the following students: Hispanic students, near-poor and poor students, students in one-parent households, and students whose parents' highest level of education was less than a high school diploma or GED.

Characteristics of students in assigned public schools in 2007
The percentage of students enrolled in assigned public schools in 2007 varied by race/ethnicity, poverty status, parents' highest level of education, and locale.12 A higher percentage of Hispanic students were enrolled in assigned public schools than were Black students (76 vs. 69 percent, respectively) (table 1). Seventy-eight percent of both poor and near-poor students attended an assigned public school, whereas a smaller percentage of nonpoor students (70 percent) did so. The percentage of students enrolled in an assigned public school decreased as parents' highest level of education increased (table 1). For example, 85 percent of students with a parent who had less than a high school diploma or GED were enrolled in assigned public schools, compared with 80 percent of students with a parent whose highest level of education was a high school diploma or GED; 75 percent of students with a parent whose highest level of education was some college; 71 percent of students with a parent whose highest level of education was a bachelor's degree; and 62 percent of students with a parent whose highest level of education was graduate or professional school. A lower percentage of students living in cities attended assigned public schools than did students living in the suburbs, towns, or rural locales (63 percent vs. 75 percent, 81 percent, and 82 percent, respectively).

Public, chosen schools

Patterns and trends: 1993 to 2007
There was an increase in the percentage of students enrolled in chosen public schools when comparing 1993 to 2007 (table 1 and figure 1); this pattern was also observed, with some exceptions, when the data were subset by student and household characteristics. Among students whose parents reported having less than a high school education, the percentage of students enrolled in chosen public schools was lower in 2007, at 12 percent, than it was in 2003 when 20 percent were reported as enrolled in chosen public schools, but there was no measurable difference in enrollment when comparing 1993 to 2007. Also the percentage of middle school students (grades 6 to 8) enrolled in chosen public schools was lower in 2007, at 12 percent, than it was in 2003 (15 percent), but there was no measurable difference in enrollment when comparing 1993 to 2007.

Characteristics of students in chosen public schools in 2007
The percentage of students enrolled in chosen public schools in 2007 varied by race/ethnicity, family structure, locale, and region. A higher percentage of Black students were enrolled in chosen public schools than were White, Hispanic, or Asian students (24 percent of Black students vs. 13 percent of White, 17 percent of Hispanic, and 14 percent of Asian students). Also, higher percentages of Hispanic students and students in the Other race category13 were enrolled in chosen public schools than were White students (table 1). With respect to family structure, a greater percentage of students from one-parent families attended chosen public schools than did students from two-parent families (18 vs. 14 percent, respectively). A greater percentage of students living in cities (23 percent) attended chosen public schools than did students living in the suburbs, towns, or rural locales (12 percent, each). A greater percentage of students in the West attended chosen public schools (20 percent) than did students in the Midwest (15 percent), South (14 percent) or Northeast (13 percent).

Private, religious schools

Patterns and trends: 1993 to 2007
Enrollment in religious private schools increased by 1 percentage point overall, from 8 to 9 percent, when comparing 1993 and 2007 (table 1 and figure 1). Increases when comparing 1993 to 2007 were also observed for the following subpopulations: White students (9 to 11 percent), Black students (3 to 6 percent), high school students (6 to 9 percent), students in the South (5 to 8 percent), and students in two-parent households (9 to 10 percent).

Characteristics of students in religious private schools in 2007
In 2007, the percentage of students enrolled in religious private schools varied by race/ethnicity, disability status, poverty status, parents' highest level of education, family structure, and locale (table 1). With respect to race/ethnicity, a greater percentage of White students attended religious private schools than did students of any other race/ethnicity (11 percent of White students vs. 7 percent of Asian students and 6 percent of students in each of the other racial/ethnic groups). In terms of disability status, a greater percentage of students with no disability attended religious private schools than did students with a disability (9 vs. 7 percent, respectively). Measurable differences were observed by poverty status, with nonpoor students having the highest rate of enrollment in religious private schools (12 percent of nonpoor students followed by 5 percent of near-poor students and 2 percent of poor students). With respect to parents' highest level of education, students of parents with more education had higher percentages of enrollment in religious private schools than did students of parents with less education. For example, fifteen percent of students with a parent who had a graduate education attended religious private schools compared with 12 percent of students with a parent who had a bachelor's degree, 7 percent of students with a parent who had some college or vocational training, 4 percent of students with a parent whose highest level of education was a high school diploma or GED, and 2 percent of students with a parent who had less than a high school diploma or GED. A greater percentage of students living in two-parent families (10 percent) than in one-parent families (5 percent) were enrolled in religious private schools in 2007. With respect to region, the percentage of students enrolled in religious private schools was smaller among students living in the West (6 percent) than among students living in the Northeast (11 percent), the Midwest (10 percent), or in the South (8 percent). Finally, a greater percentage of students in cities and suburbs (10 and 11 percent, respectively) than in towns or rural locales (5 percent, each) were enrolled in religious private schools in 2007.

Private, nonsectarian schools

Patterns and trends: 1993 to 2007
In 2007, the overall percentage of students enrolled in nonsectarian private schools (3 percent) was lower than the percentage of students enrolled in religious private schools (9 percent) (table 1 and figure 1). Comparing 1993 to 2007, there was a 1 percentage point increase in the percentage of students enrolled in nonsectarian private schools (from 2 to 3 percent). There were also increases when comparing 1993 to 2007 for a number of the subpopulations examined, namely, White students, nonpoor students, students whose parents' highest level of education was high school completion or was graduate or professional school, and students living in two-parent families.

Characteristics of students in nonsectarian private schools in 2007
Nonsectarian private school enrollment in 2007 varied by student and household characteristics.14 The greatest variation in nonsectarian private enrollment in 2007 was observed by parents' highest level of education: students whose parents had a graduate degree had a higher percentage enrollment (7 percent) than students with parents with other levels of education. Also, a greater percentage of students whose parents' highest level of education was a bachelor's degree (2 percent) attended nonsectarian private schools compared with students whose parents' highest level of education was less than high school completion (1 percent), high school completion (1 percent), or some college education (1 percent). One percent of Hispanic students attended nonsectarian private schools, a smaller percentage than that of White (3 percent) or Asian (5 percent) students. Also, a larger percentage of Asian students than Black students (5 vs. 2 percent, respectively) attended nonsectarian private schools in 2007. Four percent of nonpoor students attended nonsectarian private schools, a larger percentage than that of near-poor students (1 percent) or poor students (1 percent). A smaller percentage of students living in the Midwest (1 percent) attended nonsectarian private schools than did students living in the Northeast or the West (3 percent for both groups). A greater percentage of students living in cities (4 percent) attended nonsectarian private schools than did students living in suburbs, towns, or rural locales (2 percent, 1 percent, and 1 percent respectively).

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10 Poor students were defined as those with household incomes below 100 percent of the poverty threshold; near-poor students as those with household incomes from 100 to 199 percent of the poverty threshold; and nonpoor students as those with household incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty threshold. See the definition of the poverty status variable in Appendix A: Technical Notes.
11 Parents' highest level of education is the highest level of educational attainment between both parents or guardians in the household or the only parent or guardian in the household. This means, for example, that parents whose highest education level is a high school diploma or GED did not attend a community college, vocational or technical school, or college or university beyond high school completion.
12 Locale classifies the student's household zipcode as being in a city, suburb, town, or rural area. See the definition of the locale variable in Appendix A: Technical Notes.
13 The Other race category includes non-Hispanic students of more than one race or who were American Indian or Alaska Native, or who were not White, Black, Asian, or Pacific Islander.
14 Interpret data with caution. Many estimates for nonsectarian private schools are unstable; the coefficient of variation is 30 percent or more.


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education