New U.S. Census Bureau Data Confirm Growth in Homeschooling Amid Pandemic

Survey shows growing interest in alternative education models that spans demographic categories

A family works on schoolwork together at a kitchen table

The United States Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, an online survey designed to measure social and economic trends among U.S. households since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, offers new insight on educational trends across the country. In particular, recent data from the survey provide information on homeschool participation, its growth during the pandemic, and current homeschool estimates nationally and by state.

National and State-Level Trends

Survey data collected from September of 2022 through August of 2023 indicate that nearly 6 percent of all school-aged children nationwide were reported as homeschooled during the 2022–23 school year. This compares to 10 percent of students in private schools and 84 percent in public schools. With pre-pandemic estimates of the national homeschool population representing just 2.8 percent of students in 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Pulse figures signify growing interest in alternative schooling models.

There is considerable variation in homeschool participation across states. Alaska leads with 12.6 percent of children homeschooled, followed by Tennessee (9 percent) and West Virginia (8.9 percent). These higher rates may reflect differences in region, legislation on homeschooling, and attitudes toward alternative schooling. Conversely, Rhode Island (2.9 percent), Massachusetts (3.1 percent), and New York (3.2 percent) report the lowest homeschooling rates in the country.

Enrollment estimates from the Pulse Survey of the share of students enrolled in public and private schools are generally comparable to those from NCES and state education departments. Among the 35 states and the District of Columbia that currently report data on homeschooling families, however, the Pulse Survey data do reveal some differences. The regions with the greatest discrepancies in homeschool participation estimates were Tennessee, Washington, D.C., and Kansas. For example, in Tennessee the Household Pulse Survey estimates were 7.6 percentage points higher than those we estimated from NCES and Tennessee Department of Education data. The states with the lowest discrepancies were Maine (0.8 percentage points), Kentucky (0.7 percentage points), and Nebraska (0.4 percentage points). It is important to note that the most recent available data from NCES and the state education departments reflect student enrollment in the Fall of 2021, while the Household Pulse Survey data capture student enrollment “the school year that began in the Summer / Fall of 2022.” Regardless, these discrepancies underscore the need for high-quality, adaptive data collection methods to accurately capture our rapidly changing educational landscape.

Demographic Differences

The Pulse Survey also sheds light on the demographics of homeschooling families, providing valuable information that is often missing from the data reported by state education departments. For example, among respondents that reported having homeschooled students in their household, 19 percent of respondents were Hispanic or Latino, 60 percent were white, 12 percent were Black, 2 percent were Asian, and 7 percent were two or more or other races. These percentages are largely similar to the Census Bureau’s estimates of race and ethnicity of the general school-age population, indicating that the homeschooling population is racially diverse.

Education levels among homeschooling parents vary, with 27 percent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, 33 percent having some college education, 29 percent having a high school diploma or GED, and 11 percent with less than high school. This educational profile is similar to that of public-school parents, among whom 29 percent report holding a bachelor’s degree and 9 percent less than high school. Additionally, income data reveals that homeschooling spans the economic spectrum. Although 28 percent of respondents did not report their income, 49 percent of homeschooling families who did reported earning less than $100,000 annually, while 23 percent said they earn more than $100,000. This counters the stereotype that homeschooling is predominantly a luxury for wealthier families. In fact, the reported income levels for respondents with homeschooled children are modestly lower, on average, than those of respondents with children in public schools.

Implications and the Path Forward

Findings from the Household Pulse Survey highlight the increasingly diverse nature of U.S. education. The increased interest in homeschooling appears to be part of a broader trend towards embracing non-traditional models of education, as families seek solutions that best fit their children’s needs. Because there are some discrepancies between estimates from the Household Pulse Survey and estimates based on NCES and state education department data, further analyses of these surveys and their accuracy are needed.

Even so, the Household Pulse Survey clearly offers the most detailed and up-to-date depiction of homeschooling across the country. As we navigate a changing educational landscape, understanding and supporting diverse educational choices with accurate data is crucial in fostering an inclusive and effective education system for all students. The Census Bureau has already begun releasing data from the most recent phase of the survey, which explores school enrollment for the 2023–24 school year. We plan to examine the data from that year once they have all been released, which is scheduled for early August.

Genevieve Smith is a research assistant at the Homeschool Research Lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Angela R. Watson is an assistant professor at the Institute for Education Policy and director of the Homeschool Hub.

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