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Digest of Education Statistics: 2018
Digest of Education Statistics: 2018

NCES 2020-009
December 2019

Appendix A.4. Census Bureau

American Community Survey

The Census Bureau introduced the American Community Survey (ACS) in 1996. Fully implemented in 2005, it provides a large monthly sample of demographic, socioeconomic, and housing data comparable in content to the Long Forms of the Decennial Census up to and including the 2000 long form. Aggregated over time, these data serve as a replacement for the Long Form of the Decennial Census. The survey includes questions mandated by federal law, federal regulations, and court decisions.

Since 2011, the survey has been mailed to approximately 295,000 addresses in the United States and Puerto Rico each month, or about 3.5 million addresses annually. A larger proportion of addresses in small governmental units (e.g., American Indian reservations, small counties, and towns) also receive the survey. The monthly sample size is designed to approximate the ratio used in the 2000 Census, which requires more intensive distribution in these areas. The ACS covers the U.S. resident population, which includes the entire civilian, noninstitutionalized population; incarcerated persons; institutionalized persons; and the active duty military who are in the United States. In 2006, the ACS began collecting data from the population living in group quarters. Institutionalized group quarters include adult and juvenile correctional facilities, nursing facilities, and other health care facilities. Noninstitutionalized group quarters include college and university housing, military barracks, and other noninstitutional facilities such as workers and religious group quarters and temporary shelters for the homeless.

National-level data from the ACS are available from 2000 onward. The ACS produces 1-year estimates for jurisdictions with populations of 65,000 and over and 5-year estimates for jurisdictions with smaller populations. The 1-year estimates for 2017 used data collected between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, and the 5-year estimates for 2013–2017 used data collected between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2017. The ACS produced 3-year estimates (for jurisdictions with populations of 20,000 or over) for the periods 2005–2007, 2006–2008, 2007–2009, 2008–2010, 2009–2011, 2010–2012, and 2011–2013. Three-year estimates for these periods will continue to be available to data users, but no further 3-year estimates will be produced.

Further information about the ACS is available at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/.

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Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances

The Census Bureau conducts an Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances as authorized by law under Title 13, United States Code, Section 182. Periodic surveys of government finances have been conducted since 1902 and have been conducted annually since 1952. This survey covers the entire range of government finance activities: revenue, expenditure, debt, and assets. Revenues and expenditures comprise actual receipts and payments of a government and its agencies, including government-operated enterprises, utilities, and public trust funds. The expenditure-reporting categories comprise all amounts of money paid out by a government and its agencies, with the exception of amounts for debt retirement and for loan, investment, agency, and private trust transactions.

State government finances are based primarily on the Census Bureau Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances. Census Bureau analysts compile figures from official records and reports of the state governments for most of the state financial data. States differ in the ways in which they administer activities; they may fund such activities directly, or they may disburse the money to a lower level government or government agency. Therefore, caution is advised when attempting to make a direct comparison between states regarding their state fiscal aid data.

The sample of local governments is drawn from the periodic Census of Governments (which is conducted in years ending in “2” and “7”) and consists of certain local governments sampled with certainty plus a sample below the certainty level. Finance data for all school districts are collected on an annual basis and released through the NCES Common Core of Data system. A new sample is usually selected every 5 years (in years ending in “4” and “9”).

The statistics in Government Finances that are based wholly or partly on data from the sample are subject to sampling error. State government finance data are not subject to sampling error. Estimates of major U.S. totals for local governments are subject to a computed sampling variability of less than one-half of l percent. The estimates are also subject to the inaccuracies in classification, response, and processing that would occur if a complete census had been conducted under the same conditions as the sample.

Further information on government finances may be obtained from

Governments Division
Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
https://www.census.gov/econ/overview/go0400.html

Local government
ewd.local.finance@census.gov

State government
govs.statefinance@census.gov
https://www.census.gov/govs/

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Census of Population—Education in the United States

Some NCES tables are based on a part of the decennial census that consisted of questions asked of a 1 in 6 sample of people and housing units in the United States. This sample was asked more detailed questions about income, occupation, and housing costs, as well as questions about general demographic information. This decennial census “long form” has been discontinued and has been replaced by the American Community Survey (ACS).

School enrollment. People classified as enrolled in school reported attending a “regular” public or private school or college. They were asked whether the institution they attended was public or private and what level of school they were enrolled in.

Educational attainment. Data for educational attainment were tabulated for people ages 15 and over and classified according to the highest grade completed or the highest degree received. Instructions were also given to include the level of the previous grade attended or the highest degree received for people currently enrolled in school.

Poverty status. To determine poverty status, answers to income questions were used to make comparisons to the appropriate poverty threshold. All people except those who were institutionalized, people in military group quarters and college dormitories, and unrelated people under age 15 were considered. If the total income of each family or unrelated individual in the sample was below the corresponding cutoff, that family or individual was classified as “below the poverty level.”

Further information on the 1990 and 2000 Census of Population may be obtained from

Population Division
Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
https://www.census.gov/main/www/cen1990.html
https://www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html

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Current Population Survey

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly survey of about 54,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS is the primary source of labor force statistics on the U.S. population. In addition, supplemental questionnaires are used to provide further information about the U.S. population. The March supplement (also known as the Annual Social and Economic [ASEC] supplement) contains detailed questions on topics such as income, employment, and educational attainment; additional questions, such as items on disabilities, have also been included. In the July supplement, items on computer and internet use are the principal focus. The October supplement also contains some questions about computer and internet use, but most of its questions relate to school enrollment and school characteristics.

CPS samples are initially selected based on results from the decennial census and are periodically updated to reflect new housing construction. The current sample design for the main CPS, last revised in July 2015, includes about 74,000 households. Each month, about 54,000 of the 74,000 households are interviewed. Information is obtained each month from those in the household who are 15 years of age and over, and demographic data are collected for children 0–14 years of age. In addition, supplemental questions regarding school enrollment are asked about eligible household members age 3 and over in the October CPS supplement.

In January 1992, the CPS educational attainment variable was changed. The “Highest grade attended” and “Year completed” questions were replaced by the question “What is the highest level of school . . . has completed or the highest degree ... has received?” Thus, for example, while the old questions elicited data for those who completed more than 4 years of high school, the new question elicited data for those who were high school completers, i.e., those who graduated from high school with a diploma as well as those who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

A major redesign of the CPS was implemented in January 1994 to improve the quality of the data collected. Survey questions were revised, new questions were added, and computer-assisted interviewing methods were used for the survey data collection. Further information about the redesign is available in Current Population Survey, October 1995: (School Enrollment Supplement) Technical Documentation at https://www.census.gov/prod/techdoc/cps/cpsoct95.pdf.

Caution should be used when comparing data from 1994 through 2001 with data from 1993 and earlier. Data from 1994 through 2001 reflect 1990 census-based population controls, while data from 1993 and earlier reflect 1980 or earlier census-based population controls. Changes in population controls generally have relatively little impact on summary measures such as means, medians, and percentage distributions; they can, however, have a significant impact on population counts. For example, use of the 1990 census-based population controls resulted in about a 1 percent increase in the civilian noninstitutional population and in the number of families and households. Thus, estimates of levels for data collected in 1994 and later years will differ from those for earlier years by more than what could be attributed to actual changes in the population. These differences could be disproportionately greater for certain subpopulation groups than for the total population.

Beginning in 2003, the race/ethnicity questions were expanded. Information on people of Two or more races were included, and the Asian and Pacific Islander race category was split into two categories—Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. In addition, questions were reworded to make it clear that self-reported data on race/ethnicity should reflect the race/ethnicity with which the responder identifies, rather than what may be written in official documentation.

The estimation procedure employed for monthly CPS data involves inflating weighted sample results to independent estimates of characteristics of the civilian noninstitutional population in the United States by age, sex, and race. These independent estimates are based on statistics from decennial censuses; statistics on births, deaths, immigration, and emigration; and statistics on the population in the armed services. Generalized standard error tables are provided in the Current Population Reports; methods for deriving standard errors can be found within the CPS technical documentation at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/technical-documentation/complete.html. The CPS data are subject to both nonsampling and sampling errors.

Standard errors were estimated using the generalized variance function prior to 2005 for March CPS data and prior to 2010 for October CPS data. The generalized variance function is a simple model that expresses the variance as a function of the expected value of a survey estimate. Standard errors were estimated using replicate weight methodology beginning in 2005 for March CPS data and beginning in 2010 for October CPS data. Those interested in using CPS household-level supplement replicate weights to calculate variances may refer to Estimating Current Population Survey (CPS) Household-Level Supplement Variances Using Replicate Weights at https://thedataweb.rm.census.gov/pub/cps/supps/HH-level_Use_of_the_Public_Use_Replicate_Weight_File.doc.

Associate Directorate for Demographic Programs—Survey Operations
Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
4600 Silver Hill Road
301-763-3806
Washington, DC 20233
dsd.cps@census.gov
https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps.html

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Computer and Internet Use

The Current Population Survey (CPS) has been conducting supplemental data collections regarding computer use since 1984. In 1997, these supplemental data collections were expanded to include data on internet access. More recently, data regarding computer and internet use were collected in October 2010, July 2011, October 2012, July 2013, July 2015, and November 2017.

In the July 2011, 2013, and 2015 supplements, as well as in the November 2017 supplement, the sole focus was on computer and internet use. In the October 2010 and 2012 supplements questions on school enrollment were the principal focus, and questions on computer and internet use were less prominent. Measurable differences in estimates taken from these supplements across years could reflect actual changes in the population; however, differences could also reflect any unknown bias from major changes in the questionnaire over time due to rapidly changing technology. In addition, data may vary slightly due to seasonal variations in data collection between the July, October, and November supplements. Therefore, caution should be used when making year-to-year comparisons of CPS computer and internet use estimates.

The most recent computer and internet use supplement, conducted in November 2017, collected household information from all eligible CPS households, as well as information from individual household members age 3 and over. Information was collected about the household’s computer and internet use and the household member’s use of the Internet from any location in the past year. Additionally, information was gathered regarding a randomly selected household respondent’s use of the Internet.

For the November 2017 basic CPS, the household-level nonresponse rate was 14.3 percent. The person-level nonresponse rate for the computer and internet use supplement was an additional 23.0 percent. Since one rate is a person-level rate and the other a household-level rate, the rates cannot be combined to derive an overall rate.

Further information on the CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplement may be obtained from

Associate Directorate for Demographic Programs—Survey Operations
Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
4600 Silver Hill Road
301-763-3806
Washington, DC 20233
dsd.cps@census.gov
https://census.gov/topics/population/computer-internet.html

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Dropouts

Each October, the Current Population Survey (CPS) includes supplemental questions on the enrollment status of the population age 3 years and over as part of the monthly basic survey on labor force participation. In addition to gathering the information on school enrollment, with the limitations on accuracy as noted below under “School Enrollment,” the survey data permit calculations of dropout rates. Both status and event dropout rates are tabulated from the October CPS. Event rates describe the proportion of students who leave school each year without completing a high school program. Status rates provide cumulative data on dropouts among all young adults within a specified age range. Status rates are higher than event rates because they include all dropouts ages 16 through 24, regardless of when they last attended school.

In addition to other survey limitations, dropout rates may be affected by survey coverage and exclusion of the institutionalized population. The incarcerated population has increased and has a high dropout rate. Dropout rates for the total population might be higher than those for the noninstitutionalized population if the prison and jail populations were included in the dropout rate calculations. On the other hand, if military personnel, who tend to be high school graduates, were included, it might offset some or all of the impact from the theoretical inclusion of the jail and prison populations. Tables on status dropout rates based on the American Community Survey do include the institutionalized population and are also included in the Digest of Education Statistics.

Another area of concern with tabulations involving young people in household surveys is the relatively low coverage ratio compared to older age groups. CPS undercoverage results from missed housing units and missed people within sample households. Overall CPS undercoverage for October 2017 is estimated to be about 11 percent.

CPS coverage varies with age, sex, and race. Generally, coverage is larger for females than for males and larger for non-Blacks than for Blacks. This differential coverage is a general problem for most household-based surveys. Further information on CPS methodology may be found in the technical documentation at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps.html. Tables on status dropout rates based on the American Community Survey do include the institutionalized population and are also included in the Digest of Education Statistics.

Further information on the calculation of dropouts and dropout rates may be obtained from the Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States report at https://nces.ed.gov/programs/dropout/index.asp or by contacting

Joel McFarland
Annual Reports and Information Staff
National Center for Education Statistics
550 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20202
joel.mcfarland@ed.gov

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Educational Attainment

Reports documenting educational attainment are produced by the Census Bureau using the March Current Population Survey (CPS) supplement (Annual Social and Economic supplement [ASEC]). Currently, the ASEC supplement consists of approximately 70,000 interviewed households. Both recent and earlier editions of Educational Attainment in the United States may be downloaded at https://www.census.gov/topics/education/educational-attainment/data/tables.All.html.

In addition to the general constraints of CPS, some data indicate that the respondents have a tendency to overestimate the educational level of members of their household. Some inaccuracy is due to a lack of the respondent’s knowledge of the exact educational attainment of each household member and the hesitancy to acknowledge anything less than a high school education.

Further information on educational attainment data from CPS may be obtained from

Associate Directorate for Demographic Programs—Survey Operations
Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
(301) 763-3806
dsd.cps@census.gov
https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps.html

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School Enrollment

Each October, the Current Population Survey (CPS) includes supplemental questions on the enrollment status of the population age 3 years and over. Currently, the October supplement consists of approximately 54,000 interviewed households, the same households interviewed in the basic Current Population Survey. The primary sources of nonsampling variability in the responses to the supplement are those inherent in the main survey instrument. The question of current enrollment may not be answered accurately for various reasons. Some respondents may not know current grade information for every student in the household, a problem especially prevalent for households with members in college or in nursery school. Confusion over college credits or hours taken by a student may make it difficult to determine the year in which the student is enrolled. Problems may occur with the definition of nursery school (a group or class organized to provide educational experiences for children) where respondents’ interpretations of “educational experiences” vary.

For the October 2017 basic CPS, the household-level nonresponse rate was 13.8 percent. The person-level nonresponse rate for the school enrollment supplement was an additional 9.9 percent. Since the basic CPS nonresponse rate is a household-level rate and the school enrollment supplement nonresponse rate is a person-level rate, these rates cannot be combined to derive an overall nonresponse rate. Nonresponding households may have fewer persons than interviewed ones, so combining these rates may lead to an overestimate of the true overall nonresponse rate for persons for the school enrollment supplement.

Although the principal focus of the October supplement is school enrollment, in some years the supplement has included additional questions on other topics. In 2010 and 2012, for example, the October supplement included additional questions on computer and internet use.

Further information on CPS methodology may be obtained from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps.html.

Further information on the CPS School Enrollment Supplement may be obtained from

Associate Directorate for Demographic Programs—Survey Operations
Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
(301) 763-3806
dsd.cps@census.gov
https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps.html

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Decennial Census, Population Estimates, and Population Projections

The decennial census is a universe survey mandated by the U.S. Constitution. It is a questionnaire sent to every household in the country, and it is composed of seven questions about the household and its members (name, sex, age, relationship, Hispanic origin, race, and whether the housing unit is owned or rented). The Census Bureau also produces annual estimates of the resident population by demographic characteristics (age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin) for the nation, states, and counties, as well as national and state projections for the resident population. The reference date for population estimates is July 1 of the given year. With each new issue of July 1 estimates, the Census Bureau revises estimates for each year back to the last census. Previously published estimates are superseded and archived.

Census respondents self-report race and ethnicity. The race questions on the 1990 and 2000 censuses differed in some significant ways. In 1990, the respondent was instructed to select the one race “that the respondent considers himself/herself to be,” whereas in 2000, the respondent could select one or more races that the person considered himself or herself to be. American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut were three separate race categories in 1990; in 2000, the American Indian and Alaska Native categories were combined, with an option to write in a tribal affiliation. This write-in option was provided only for the American Indian category in 1990. There was a combined Asian and Pacific Islander race category in 1990, but the groups were separated into two categories in 2000.

The census question on ethnicity asks whether the respondent is of Hispanic origin, regardless of the race option(s) selected; thus, persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. In the 2000 census, respondents were first asked, “Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?” and then given the following options: No, not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino; Yes, Puerto Rican; Yes, Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; Yes, Cuban; and Yes, other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino (with space to print the specific group). In the 2010 census, respondents were asked “Is this person of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?” The options given were No, not of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin; Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano; Yes, Puerto Rican; Yes, Cuban; and Yes, another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin—along with instructions to print “Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard, and so on” in a specific box.

The 2000 and 2010 censuses each asked the respondent “What is this person’s race?” and allowed the respondent to select one or more options. The options provided were largely the same in both the 2000 and 2010 censuses: White; Black, African American, or Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native (with space to print the name of enrolled or principal tribe); Asian Indian; Japanese; Native Hawaiian; Chinese; Korean; Guamanian or Chamorro; Filipino; Vietnamese; Samoan; Other Asian; Other Pacific Islander; and Some other race. The last three options included space to print the specific race. Two significant differences between the 2000 and 2010 census questions on race were that no race examples were provided for the “Other Asian” and “Other Pacific Islander” responses in 2000, whereas the race examples of “Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, and so on” and “Fijian, Tongan, and so on,” were provided for the “Other Asian” and “Other Pacific Islander” responses, respectively, in 2010.

The census population estimates program modified the enumerated population from the 2010 census to produce the population estimates base for 2010 and onward. As part of the modification, the Census Bureau recoded the “Some other race” responses from the 2010 census to one or more of the five OMB race categories used in the estimates program (for more information, see https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest/technical-documentation/methodology.html).

Further information on the decennial census may be obtained from https://www.census.gov/

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Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates

Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) are produced for school districts, counties, and states. The main objective of this program is to provide updated estimates of income and poverty statistics for the administration of federal programs and the allocation of federal funds to local jurisdictions. Estimates for 2017 were released in November 2018. These estimates combine data from administrative records, postcensal population estimates, and the decennial census with direct estimates from the American Community Survey to provide consistent and reliable single-year estimates. These model-based single-year estimates are more reflective of current conditions than multiyear survey estimates.

Further information on the SAIPE program may be obtained from

Small Area Estimates Branch
Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
sehsd.saipe@census.gov
https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/saipe/about/contact.html