Using Survey Data Sets to Study Homeschooling

Publisher: The Wiley Handbook of Home Education, edited by Milton Gaither
Dec 30, 2016
Eric Isenberg

Key Findings:

  • The quasi-official estimate of homeschooling from multiple rounds of the National Household Education Survey (NHES) has shown growth each time the survey has been administered, from 1.4% of the total population of homeschooled children in 1996 to 3.4%, or about 1,773,000 children, in 2012. The estimates should not be treated as a census count of homeschoolers but as the midpoint of a range of plausible estimates. For example, the estimates from the 2012 NHES suggest that the percentage of schoolchildren who are homeschooled is likely to be within a range from 3.0% to 3.9%.
  • Because homeschooling families have become more likely over time to complete the NHES follow-up surveys and possibly more likely to cooperate in taking the initial screener survey, the true numbers of homeschoolers (prior to 2012) may have been a bit higher than the estimates provided by the NHES and the implied growth rate a bit lower.
  • Data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) and the state of Wisconsin track the NHES estimates closely until 2007 and then diverge, with a flat or slightly downward trend in the NSCH and Wisconsin data from 2007 to 2012. One explanation for this discrepancy between the NSCH and NHES is that the NHES surveys provide a second opportunity for families to self-identify as homeschoolers.
  • Children were equally likely to be homeschooled in the elementary, middle, and high school grades.
This chapter describes survey data available for studying homeschooling. The focus is principally on nationally representative cross-sections of U.S. schoolchildren. In addition to describing the strengths and limitations of each data set, I discuss what is known about the number of homeschooled children in the United States, and how the number has changed over time. Finally, I discuss some suggestions for future research, drawing on the data currently available.