Homeschool Demographics

The best demographic data we have on the homeschooling population is collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through its National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), conducted every four years. The NHES began including questions about homeschooling in 1999. The NHES 2012 and 2016 used nationally representative address samples; the NHES 1999, 2003, and 2007 used random digit dial samples.

  • All measurements are of students ages 5-17 or in grades K-12.
  • For the purposes of this page, white means white, non-Hispanic.

Race and Ethnicity

Analysis: Since 2007, the National Household Education Surveys Program has found a decline in the percentage of homeschooled students who are white and an accompanying increase in Hispanic students being homeschooled. Neither black students nor Asian and Pacific Islander students have made up more than 10% of homeschooled students in any survey. 

Analysis: The NHES 2016 was the first to find a decline in the homeschooling rate among white children. According to NHES estimates, the number of white children being homeschooled fell from 1,200,000 to 1,000,000 between 2012 and 2016. 

Analysis: The NHES 2012 and NHES 2016 found sharp increases in the rate of homeschooling among Hispanic students. According to NHES estimates, the number of Hispanic children being homeschooled rose from just over 250,000 to just under 450,000 between 2012 and 2016. 

Analysis: The NHES 2016 found that 1.9% of black students and 1.5% of Asian and Pacific Islander students were being homeschooled. Black, Asian, and Pacific Islander students are less likely to be homeschooled than white or Hispanic students. The number and rate of Asian and Pacific Islander students being homeschooled declined between 2012 and 2016 (from 2.6% to 1.5% and from 73,000 to 48,000) while the number and rate of black students being homeschooled remained steady. 

Analysis: Despite changing demographics, homeschooling remains disproportionately white. Homeschooled students are as likely as other students to be Hispanic, but are less likely to be black, Asian, Pacific Islander, or other. 

Questions to ask:

What factors are prompting an increasing number of Hispanic parents to homeschool their children? The NHES 2016 found that 11% of homeschooled students do not have a parent or guardian who speaks English. Are schools failing to meet the needs of these students? Are Hispanic students who are homeschooled more likely than other students to be enrolled in cyber-charter programs and online public school programs?

What explains the low rate of Asian and Pacific Islander homeschooling relative to other groups? Are Asian parents gravitating toward private or charter schools? (It is difficult to tell whether the decline in homeschooling among Asian and Pacific Islander students from 2012 to 2016 is part of a longterm trend because the National Household Education Surveys Program did not include a category for Asian and Pacific Islander students prior to 2012.)


Parental Education

Analysis: The NHES 2016 found that homeschooling parents were roughly as likely to have a bachelor’s degree or above or to have a high school diploma or below. Slightly fewer homeschooling parents had a graduate or professional degree and slightly more homeschooling parents had not completed high school. 

Analysis: Between the NHES 1999 and the NHES 2016, the percentage of students being homeschooled by parents without a high school diploma or GED rose while the number of students being homeschooled by parents with a graduate or professional degree fell. The rise in the number of students being homeschooled by parents who have not completed high school or a GED is consistent across the NHES 2012 and NHES 2016; in 2012, 11% of homeschooled students fell into this category; in 2016, 15% did. 

Analysis: The NHES 2016 found the highest rate of homeschooling among parents who had not completed high school, followed by parents with bachelor’s degrees.  

Questions to ask:

What factors are prompting more parents without high school diplomas to homeschool their children, according to the NHES? Are these parents more likely than other homeschooling parents to enroll their children in cyber-charter and online public school options? Is the changing education level of homeschooling parents related to the rise in Hispanic parents homeschooling and relative decline in white parents homeschooling?

Why are fewer parents with graduate and professional degrees homeschooling their children? The NHES found that a smaller number of homeschooled children had parents with graduate and professional degrees in 2016 (263,000) than in 2007 (309,000). Are parents with graduate and professional degrees who might have homeschooled in the past instead turning to public schools or enrolling their children in private and charter schools? If so, why?


Family Income

Analysis: The NHES 2003 found that homeschooled students were as likely as other students to be poor and more likely to be near-poor. After 2003, the NHES stopped reporting the percentage of students who were near-poor, so it is impossible to know whether this finding holds true today. The elevated rate of near-poverty among homeschooled students may have been the result of some homeschooling families’ giving up a second income. 

Analysis: In contrast to previous surveys, which have typically found roughly the same level of poverty among homeschooling families as among other families, the NHES 2016 found that homeschooled students were more likely than other students to live below the poverty level. This change is likely related to shifts in racial demographics and levels of parental education also evident in the 2016 survey.  

Analysis: The NHES 2016 found that students in poverty were homeschooled at a higher rate than non-poor students. The NHES 2012 found that the homeschooling rate was roughly the same for poor students (3.5) as for non-poor students (3.4).  

Questions to ask:

Between the NHES 2012 and and the NHES 2016, the rate of homeschooling among non-poor students decreased from 3.4 to 3.1. At the same time, the rate of homeschooling among poor students increased from 3.5 to 3.9. What explains this change? Are parents with resources increasingly turning to charter schools? Or, conversely, are low income parents being increasingly courted by cyber-charters and online public school programs?


Family Characteristics

Analysis: The NHES 2012 found that homeschooled children were more likely than other children to live in households with two parents (biological, adoptive, step, or foster). Roughly one in five homeschooled children lived in a household with one parent (compared with nearly a third of students overall). 

Analysis: The NHES 2012 found that homeschooled children were more likely than other students to have two parents with one in the labor force. While the survey found that over a third of homeschooled children have two parents in the labor force, what this looks like in practice is unclear; in some cases a homeschooling parent may stay home to educate their children while taking on flexible work on the side. 

Analysis: The NHES 2012 found that a quarter of homeschooled students were the only child in their household while half of homeschooled students lived in households with three or more children; this represents a change from the first decade of this century, when the percentage of homeschooled children in households with only one child hovered around 12% and the percentage in households with three or more children hovered around 60%.  


Region and Locale

Analysis: The NHES 2016 finding that homeschooled students are more likely than other students to be rural is consistent with previous surveys. 

Analysis: Unfortunately, the NHES stopped reporting region after the 2007 survey. With the demographic changes found in the NHES 2012 and NHES 2016, we cannot assume that the regional patterns in the NHES 2007—a higher rate of homeschooling in the South and West—hold true today. 


Sources

National Center for Education Statistics Tables:

National Center for Education Statistics Reports:

Page last updated November 2017.


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