NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Immigration Increased School Populations To 1970s Level

March 23, 2001

About as many youngsters attend U.S. elementary and secondary schools today as did at the height of the baby-boom generation in the early 1970s. The difference is that the additional students are being supplied through immigration, according to Census Bureau data.

That means that public school classrooms are more racially and ethnically diverse today than they were three decades ago.

  • Of the 49 million children enrolled in grades 1-12 in October 1999, 16 percent were black, 15 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent were Asian and Pacific Islander and races other than white.
  • Non-Hispanic white students made up 64 percent of the total.
  • The last time school enrollment reached that level -- in 1972 at the crest of the baby boom -- 14 percent of students were black, 6 percent were Hispanic, 1 percent were Asian and Pacific Islander and other races, and 79 percent were non-Hispanic whites.
  • In 1999, one-fifth of elementary or high school students had at least one parent born abroad -- the first time the Census Bureau has tracked that statistic.

With the growth in diversity has come higher costs for bringing non-English speaking students into the linguistic mainstream. For example, in Fairfax County, Va., the cost of educating a regular student is about $7,500 a year. The cost of educating a child in an English-as-a-second-language program is around $10,000 a year.

Source: Eric Schmitt, "Tally of Students Equals Number at Boomer Peak," New York Times, March 23, 2001.


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