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About the NHES

What is the NHES?

The National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) was developed by NCES to complement its school-based and institutional surveys (surveys of students, teachers, school administrators, and administrative records). Surveys that comprise the NHES are integral data collection tools for addressing topics that cannot be studied efficiently through institutional data collections. Those data collections provide a wealth of information but cannot tell us about learning that occurs outside of the formal education structure (such as homeschooling or early childhood education) or how families interact with and view the education system. By surveying households, the NHES allows NCES to generate a richer, more comprehensive view of American education.

NHES Topics History

Since its inception in 1991, the NHES has fielded topical survey modules about early childhood care and education, children’s readiness for school, parents’ perceptions of school safety and discipline, before- and after-school activities of school-age children, participation in adult and career education, parents’ involvement in their children’s education, school choice, homeschooling, and civic involvement.

Since 2019, NHES has focused on three main topics: young children’s care and education before school, parents’ involvement in their children’s education—including school choice—and homeschooling.

Surveys Data Collection Years
About Young Children
Early Childhood Program Participation 1991, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2012, 2016, 2019, 2023
School Readiness 1993, 1999, 2007
About School-Aged Children
Before- and After-School Programs and Activities 1999, 2001, 2005
School Safety and Discipline 1993
Parent and Family Involvement in Education 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2016, 2019, 2023
About Adults
Adult Education 1991, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005
Credentials for Work 2016
Civic Involvement 1996, 1999
Household Library Use 1996

Explore historical NHES data in the NHES Data Files & Questionnaires and NHES Publications.

NHES Design History

NHES uses a two-stage design in which sampled households complete a screener questionnaire to enumerate household members and their key characteristics. Within-household sampling from the screener data determines which household member(s) receives which topical survey(s). NHES typically fields 2 to 3 topical surveys at a time, although the number has varied across administrations. Surveys are administered in English and in Spanish. The unit of analysis in NHES surveys is the sampled household member. For the child surveys, the unit of analysis is the sampled child and the respondent is the child’s parent or guardian. For the adult surveys, the sampled adult was both the unit of analysis and the respondent.

Data from the NHES are used to provide national estimates on populations of interest to education researchers and policymakers. For surveys about children, the population of interest is defined by age or grade in school, or both, depending on the particular survey topic and research questions. The NHES targets populations of interest using specific screening and sampling procedures and includes an oversample of Blacks and Hispanics to increase the reliability of information on these populations. Because many of the topical surveys fielded as part of NHES are repeated over time, in addition to providing single point-in-time cross-sectional estimates, NHES data can be used to develop trend estimates. Learn how to analyze and interpret NHES data through the Distance Learning Dataset Training, an online tool for NCES data.

NHES Mode Change

From 1991 to 2007, the NHES was conducted by telephone interviewers using list-assisted random-digit-dial and computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) methodologies. After the 2007 collection, the NHES was redesigned to improve response rates and population coverage. The new NHES data collection methodology used an address-based sample and self-administered surveys delivered and returned though the mail. A web component was first introduced in 2016 for a small portion of the sample. In 2019, the data collection switched to mail-out and web, with a web-first design. The mode change from an interviewer- to self-administered survey required revisions to item wording and may affect the comparability of estimates from before and after the mode change.

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