February 26, 2001

The 49 million students ages 3 to 34 enrolled in the country's elementary and high schools in 1999 equaled the all-time high first set in 1970 when their "baby boom" parents went to school, according to a report released today by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau. Children of new
immigrants contributed to the high enrollment.

About two-thirds of elementary and high school students had a baby boom parent in 1999. The baby boom population is defined as those born between 1946 and 1964.

The data should not be confused with results of Census 2000, which are being released over the next three years.

"During the 1970s and early 1980s, there was a general decrease in the size of the 6- to 17-year-old population," said Amie Jamieson, one of the authors of School Enrollment in the United States Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 1999 "In the past few years, the population of this age group has increased, meaning that school enrollment will probably continue to increase moderately for the near future."

About 1 in 5 elementary and high school students had at least one foreign-born parent in 1999. An estimated 88 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students had a foreign-born parent, compared with 7 percent of non-Hispanic Whites and 11 percent of African Americans. About 65 percent of Hispanic students, who may be of any race, had a foreign-born parent.

Other highlights:

-- Elementary and high school students in 1999 were more racially and ethnically diverse than were their counterparts at the crest of the baby boom in 1972. For example, 63 percent were non-Hispanic Whites in 1999, compared with 79 percent in 1972. About 16 percent were African Americans, compared with 14 percent in 1972. About 5 percent were Asian and Pacific Islander, higher than the 1 percent in 1972. Another 15 percent were Hispanic, up from 6 percent in 1972.

-- Nursery school enrollment of 5 million children in 1999 matched a record set in 1995. While the eligible population of 3- and 4-year-olds has fluctuated around 8 million since 1964, the enrollment rate in nursery school over that period rose from about 5 percent to 50 percent.

-- Women accounted for 54 percent of all college students, continuing the majority role they have occupied since 1979. Women are especially prevalent among older college students, with 62 percent of students ages 35 and over being women.

-- More than one-fourth of the population, 72 million people, were in school in 1999. Among those enrolled, 8 million were in nursery school and kindergarten, 33 million in elementary school, 16 million in high school and 15 million in college. (The numbers of students in high school and college were not statistically different.)

-- The proportion of students from the class of 1999 going on to college dropped to the 1995 level of 63 percent.

Data are from the October 1999 Current Population Survey. Statistics from surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling errors.

Note: The number of students in the three race groups shown here do not add to the total because data for American Indians and Alaska Natives are not shown

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, October 1999

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