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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 that comprise the NHES are integral data collection tools for addressing topics that cannot be studied efficiently through institutional data collections. By collecting data directly from households, the NHES has allowed NCES to gather data on a wide range of topics. These topics are addressed through a series of topical survey modules. Many of the topical survey modules are repeated on a rotating basis, while others are one-time-only collections.

NHES Topics

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 2007, the NHES has focused on four main topics: young children's care and education before school , participation in adult training and education, parents' involvement in their children's education–including school choice–and homeschooling.

Surveys Data Collection Year
About Young Children
Early Childhood Program Participation 1991, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2012, 2016, 2019
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
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

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 its 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 is 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 Black and Hispanic adults and children who may otherwise be underrepresented in the NHES sample. 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 uses an address-based sample and self-administered surveys delivered and returned through the mail or completed by web. A web survey was first introduced in 2016 for a small portion of the sample. The mode change from an interviewer- to self-administered survey required revisions to item wording and may affect the comparability of estimates from NHES data from before and after the mode change.

The Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES)

Although the NHES has included surveys about adult education since the 1990's, the Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES) was an entirely new survey introduced in 2016. Estimates from the ATES and prior NHES adult education surveys are not comparable and cannot be used for trend analysis. You can learn more about the ATES design and development on the webpage for the Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment.