Support This Website! Shop Here!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Catholic Education 2014

The collapse of Catholic education in America continues as I have predicted. The numbers below come from the National Catholic Education Association and the US Census Bureau. Study them carefully.
School Year
Total US Population 106,000,000 319,000,000
Catholic Population 17,700,000 69,436,660
Catholic as % of Population 16.60% 21.7%
Total Catholic School Population 1,925,221 1,974,578
Grade School Population 1,800,000 1,390,000
# of Grade Schools 6,551 5,399
High School Population 129,848 582,785
# of High Schools 1,552 1,195
As you can see, total Catholic school populations are nearly identical to a century ago - the current school population should match or drop below by next year. America's population has tripled,  America's Catholic population has quadrupled, but America's Catholic schools have shrunk to almost exactly the same size they were a century ago.

The Catholic Grade Schools
But the news isn't even that good. The 2013 numbers have been pumped up by non-Catholic children. Yes, fully 16.4% of the 1.974 million children currently enrolled in Catholic schools are non-Catholic. If we took them out of the equation, the total Catholic student population in Catholic schools would actually be closer to 1.65 million. The Catholic student population has actually shrunk below the 1919-20 level as the nation has grown.

In 1920, almost no one went to high school, so nearly 1.8 million of the 1.9 million children enrolled were in grade school. The grade schools grew faster than the high schools. Today, the grade schools are shrinking faster than the high schools. Only 1.39 million children are in grade school. That 1.39 million includes the 14.6% of grade school students who are non-Catholics.

If we take out the non-Catholics in the grade school system, you're looking at 1.19 million Catholic grade school children. So, today's Catholic grade school population is actually 33% smaller than it was in 1920. That is, the nation tripled in size, but Catholic grade school populations shrank by one-third. Even so, 60% of the children who attend Catholic grade school never see the inside of a Catholic high school.

The Catholic High Schools
There are currently 582,785 Catholic high school students, but fully 20% of those high school students are not Catholic. That means we have only 462,000 Catholic students in Catholic high schools - quite a bit less than half a million. High school populations are not collapsing as fast as grade schools' primarily because today's parents want their kids in good colleges. They hope a private high school will help. Even so, both the number of high school students and high schools have been dropping for years. The current enrollment is 583,000: the high school population hasn't been this low in the last sixty years. The number of high schools is 1195: the number has not been this low in the last century.

In 1920, 64% of the population, or about 67.8 million children, were under the age of 18 (p. xv, Table E). About 11.6 million (16.6%) of those children were Catholic. Today, America has about 74 million children under the age of 18. About 16 million (22%), are Catholic. This means that both in 1920 and today, about 58 million children are non-Catholic. These figures assume Catholic children make up the same proportion of the population as Catholic adults.

Given that there are more Catholic children alive today than there were in 1920, the absolute drop in number of children attending Catholic school is truly impressive. The news probably won't get better on the Catholic front. While "data indicate that almost all self-identified Catholics having children are baptizing those children (most within a year of birth and some in later childhood years)", the raw number of children being baptized into the Catholic Church each year has been declining for decades. So has the annual number of Catholic marriages.

So, while the proportion of Catholic children in the general population may continue to increase, there is no indication this will increase the number of Catholic students in Catholic schools. In fact, the trend has been very much in the opposite direction. Bishops who insist that the Catholic schools are the key to passing on the Catholic Faith are ignoring the last 40 years of evidence to the contrary.

Non-Catholic Students
Non-Catholic students will not save the day. The last year the Catholic school system saw growth was  2000-01. In that year, 365,328 (13.8% ) of the school population was non-Catholic. By 2012, this number had dropped to only 318,277 (15.9%). While 2013 has seen that total rise to 323,542 (16.4%) non-Catholic students, the raw total is still over 10% off the Catholic school mini-boom of 2000-01.

Right now, Catholic schools can't seem to attract either Catholic or non-Catholic students.

Even if Catholic schools succeed in attracting the same number of non-Catholics each year, given the shrinking number of Catholic students participating, the schools won't be able to sustain themselves on non-Catholic populations alone. Over the course of the last twelve months, even with Catholic school gains of over 5000 non-Catholic students, they still lost over 27,000 total students. In both percentage and raw terms, this was actually the lowest loss rate (-1.36%)  since 2001-02 (-1.17%). It is not a recipe for success.


Flambeaux said...

Steve, is it just demographic trends driving this? Or is this another intentionally cultivated fruit of "designed to fail"?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

A combination. Whites aren't having babies anymore, blacks mostly aren't Catholic and Hispanics don't attend private schools - not part of their culture.

The number of schools, both parochial and high schools, and enrollment have been dropping steadily since the 1960s.

Bishops attempt to solve the problem by setting up advisory panels consisting of all the people who have helped drive the schools into this position in the last forty years. Shockingly, those committees almost never turn things around.

Homeschooling is eating their lunch and will continue to do so as Internet knowledge tools become pervasive. Same goes for public schools. In thirty years, the only people who will be left in formal schooling are special needs and children of single parents. Everyone else will have bailed to private tutors/homeschooling with Internet assist.

MatheusFT said...

Haven't even read the post and so I can't argue about it, but the "Whites" and "Hispanics" made me remember this article. What do you think of it Steve?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I don't think much of the Frontpage article one way or the other. It's not clear to me what the point of the article is.

It also isn't clear to me what possible relevance that article has to this Catholic education article.

Ann said...

All I can say is that I attended Catholic schools in the 1950-1960's, and I at least got an education.When my children attended in the 70's - 80's, the teachers were totally incompetent and the "religion" they were teaching was close to heretical. I pulled them out and put them in public school because I figured it would be easier to correct false doctrine coming from a public school source than coming from a "Catholic" school.

MatheusFT said...

Whoa, Steve. Chill...

I said it had no point to the issue...the point of the article was the political correctness that permeates the demographic vocabulary, and the post made me remember it. Just that.