The Private/Public School Map [Updated]


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

21 Responses

  1. Avatar bearing says:

    There are strong Catholic school systems in both the Cincinnati and Cleveland areas, and probably other Ohio cities as well. I’m guessing that Catholic schools explains Nebraska and Wisconsin, too.Report

  2. Avatar Chai says:

    Re: Missouri – that does not surprise me much. The population concentration there is KC and STL, both of which are places where you do not send your kids to the city school district if you can afford another option. The lower-pop suburban municipalities, which do have good schools, must not be enough to make up for the middle class urban contingent. Both cities also have strong Catholic populations, which along with the disaffected urbanites provide a strong base for Catholic schools (which are much cheaper than secular private options, generally). I myself went to Catholic school thereabouts, and while I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed as high as 12%, I’m not surprised to see a generally strong showing.

    Kansas I am less enlightened about. The Kansas side of the KC area is exactly those suburban places that do have decent schools, and I know nothing about the situation in Wichita or Topeka. I do know that a good chunk of the KC Catholic community does live on the Kansas side, but I would not have though that those students would be such a bump to the overall state stats. Maybe it’s just that nobody under 25 lives in the rest of the state anymore…Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    On the Northeast: there’s a tradition of private academies, pre-dating public high schools; and students come to those schools from all over the world. Exeter Academy is probably the most famous; my husband worked at the academy here in our town. It was originally built by a wealth man who sought refuge here from the city (he had numbers of health problems), as a boarding school from students from away, with free tuition for local kids — he called them ‘the hill people’ in the founding documents.

    And the student body of most is about 1/2 in-state, 1/4 from other states, and 1/4 international; with the international population growing rapidly.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Milwaukee & Cleveland were the earliest of the early voucher program pilots, so that could have something to do with the WI & OH numbers. This is not unrelated to @bearing ‘s point.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Dude… didn’t I tell you I have tons of data on independent schools per the National Association of Independent Schools (as a teacher at a member school, I can access their gated stats)? Anyway, if you ever want more info, let me know. It’s just a bunch of tables, so you’d have to create a map like this on your own though.

    In MA and CT, one factor you have to consider is the concentration of schools. CT has a ton of schools in the Fairfield County area (southwest portion of the state, nearest NY). It has a scattering of schools beyond that, many of them boarding. But you have huge swaths of the state with limited options. MA is similarly situated though probably with a bit more even distribution. But if you live in northwest CT and can’t attend a boarding school, you pretty much have to go public.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’d be interested in seeing how the overall private school attendance lines up specifically with NAIS attendence/membership/etc. That is, are there pockets of the country where there’s more private schooling that isn’t affiliated with the NAIS or similar organizations?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Good question, @alan-scott

        I know you can find a lot of pre-schools that aren’t affiliated with NAIS because such credentialing doesn’t mean much. Some will go through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). But small centers — like my son’s home care center — will usually get themselves licensed through the state but otherwise won’t pursue credentialing/affiliation. Most elementary or high schools (or combinations therein) are going to get themselves affiliated, with the exceptions usually being schools with very specific ideologies (e.g., Montessori, Waldorf) or very, very religious schools. Basically, those places derive their legitimacy from other sources — either a philosophy-specific credentialing org or simply a strict adherence to the philosophy in the former and the affiliated religious organization in the latter.

        I would need more data than what the map alone provides to make any such comparison, but I’ll see what I can do.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Alan Scott says:


        A bit of sleuthing…

        NAIS claims to represent approximately 1000 schools. CAPE (Center for American Private Education… a group I am unfamiliar with) claims there to be over 30,000 private schools in America. Cape says 80% of those are religiously affiliated. Since they cover a PK-12 range, they might be including in this your local church’s basement day care center. Which is certainly going to change the numbers.

        So I think we might quickly run into a definitional problem if we want to seriously explore your query. Local church basement day care certain qualifies as a “private school” under most definitions of the term, but I doubt it is what people are thinking of when they think “private school in America”.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    As other people pointed out, the Northeast has a long tradition of boarding schools/private schooling for the elite and this was long before it was common for everyone to attend K-12 or even K-8. There is also a relatively old tradition of parochial schools because of the Irish and Italian populations probably.

    New York probably also has Yeshivas that are thrown into the mix.Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Here are trends I’ve noticed:

    My friends who are white and grew up in cities tended to go to private schools.

    My friends who are white and grew up in suburbs and rural areas tended to go to public schools.

    There are some exceptions. I have friends from undergrad whose parents were too snobby to move to a suburb and out of New York City but could not afford the astronomical costs of private school tuition. These parents tended to push their kids very hard and hope said kids got into one of the handful of good public high schools. And if the kid did not get into Stuy, Bronx Science, etc, there was a mad dash to find a private high school at the last minute.

    I heard people in our generation (meaning middle class and above white people) were supposed to be abandoning the suburbs for the city but I was always skeptical because the issue of schooling would come up. I think the asymmetric gentrification article I posted on Sunday proves this. People are being priced out of nice urban neighborhoods with good schools and decide that it is better to go to the suburbs instead of stay in the city and move to more affordable urban neighborhoods. I think schools are probably part of the reason.Report

  8. Avatar Pinky says:

    Wikipedia lists 294 boarding schools in the US. Massachusetts leads the pack with 34, then Connecticut with 28. Of the rest, only CA, NH, NC, NY, PA, and VA have more than 10. Unless these schools are a lot bigger than I imagine, they’re not influencing the state statistics that much.Report

  9. Avatar Starman says:

    Nice map, but perhaps too coarse-grained.
    For instance, CA shows as less than 10% of students in private schools. But what about Los Angeles? In 2005 (best numbers I could get quickly) there were 1.7 million kids in public schools in LA County and 200,000 in private schools. But that is countywide. In the city, LAUSD had about 725000 students, and most of the private schools are in the city, so in Los Angeles, we have about 725000 in public and 200000 in private schools. LA is somewhere in the vicinity of 25 percent in private schools.
    Quick analysis–this is a hangover effect from the bussing kerfuffle in the 1970’s. LA Schools suffered during white flight, which took 2 forms–those who moved farther out into suburbia, and those who pulled their kids from public schools and went to private schools.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Starman says:

      Not only is it a bit too coarse-grained, but there isn’t the sort of detail that you’d like to see.

      The numbers of (public/private) folks are interesting, but it’d be more interesting to know more about what sorts of folks go public v. private (socioeconomic status, ethnicity, etc)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Patrick says:

        @patrick Follow the links, my man. Follow the links. Or click here.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Patrick says:


        I am largely not surprised by any of this information. SF is already the city in the US with the least number of under 18 year olds. It is unsurprising that 20 percent of SF kids attend private school. Chappaqua is the time of upper-middle class suburb where people move to because of excellent public schools.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Starman says:

      Getting county and city data is often much more difficult, and creates more complicated patterns. I’ve been playing with cluster analysis and interstate migration data. That produces a few small surprises in terms of defining regions. Once you start looking at county-level data for those surprises, you find that the state-level stuff can actually be misleading about what’s actually happening. And of course, as you note, in some cases county isn’t low enough; LA the city is more populous than a fair number of states.Report

  10. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Hawaii has a school system dedicated to the education of people with (at least some portion of) Native Hawaiian ancestry that is funded from a land bequest – which includes portions of downtown and Waikiki – of one of the last royals (who married one of the big shot white plantation owners). It’s ‘private’ but the board that controls it are appointed by state officials (the Hawaii Supreme Court, to be precise).Report