NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Long-Term Trends in Private School Enrollments by Family Income

Richard J. Murnane, Sean F. Reardon

NBER Working Paper No. 23571
Issued in July 2017, Revised in February 2018
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education

We use data from multiple national surveys to describe trends in private elementary school enrollment by family income from 1968-2013. We note several important trends. First, the private school enrollment rate of middle-income families declined substantially over the last five decades, while that of high-income families remained quite stable. Second, there are notable differences in private school enrollment trends by race/ethnicity, urbanicity, and region of the country. Although racial/ethnic differences in private school enrollment are largely explained by income differences, the urban/suburban and regional differences in private school enrollment patterns are large even among families with similar incomes. In particular, the 90-50 income percentile difference in private school enrollment rates in 2013 is more than three times as large in cities as in the suburbs, and these gaps are larger in the South and West than in the Northeast and Midwest. Factors contributing to these patterns may include trends in income inequality, private school costs and availability, and the perceived relative quality of local schooling options.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23571

Published: Richard J. Murnane & Sean F. Reardon, 2018. "Long-Term Trends in Private School Enrollments by Family Income," AERA Open, vol 4(1).

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