Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Public School Enrollment Trends and Home Prices

Counties with public school enrollment gains experienced higher price appreciation in the last 7 years, a NAR analysis shows.

Across the country, hallways and classrooms are full of activity. More than three-fourths of the school-aged population, 48.2 million students, were enrolled in a public elementary and secondary school in 2018. Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases school enrollment figures that give a snapshot of where these kids choose to enroll.

Based on the data, between fall of 2011 and fall 2018, enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools declined 1.4% across the United States. While the number of students at each grade level is primarily influenced by population trends, enrollment in kindergarten had the highest decline of 5% followed by grade 1 - grade 4 (3%).

However, changes in enrollment vary by area. Among 810 counties, public school enrollment increased in 42% (339 counties) of these counties in the United States. An analysis of county data on school populations reveals that the following counties experienced the highest gains in public school enrollment within the last 7 years:

Parsing out by level of school, most of the counties above experienced a higher increase of public school enrollment in kindergarten, followed by middle school during 2011 and 2018. For instance, in Dallas County, IA, the number of students enrolled in a public school kindergarten in 2018 was 1.8 times higher than the number of students in 2011.  This also shows that the population of young kids (5 years old) in Dallas County, IA significantly increased in this area in the last 7 years. However, in Arlington County, VA, the greatest increase occurred at middle school. Students in grades 5 to grade 8 increased by 98% (3,997 more students) in 2018 compared to 2011. Thus, based on the school enrollment data, the population of kids between the ages of 10 and 13 rose in Arlington County during 2011 and 2018.

How does this increase in public school enrollment affect the local area?

First of all, school enrollment growth may reflect stronger local county employment as more new residents move into the region because of jobs and they bring along their school-aged children. At the most basic level, more labor means more goods and services being produced, so that local economic activity rises.

Literature review has shown that homeownership has positive effects on the academic achievement of children1. Homeownership brings residential stability, and stability raises the educational attainment of children. According to a NAR Survey2, over half of recent buyers with children under the age of 18 living in their home cited the school district as an influencing factor in their neighborhood choice. Therefore, since more people are moving to these school districts, housing demand is expected to increase.

Data shows that counties with enrollment gains experienced higher home price increases. In the last 7 years, home prices increased 33 percent on average in the counties with enrollment gains. Especially, in the top 20 counties with the highest enrollment gains, home prices increased 37 percent on average. For instance, in Dallas County, IA, public school enrollment rose 64 percent while home prices increased 51 percent in the last 7 years. Respectively, in Midland County, Texas, public school enrollment increased 31 percent while home prices rose 52 percent. However, home prices rose 18 percent on average in the counties where enrollment declined during 2011 and 2018. Thus, ceteris paribus (with other conditions remaining the same), public school enrollment is estimated to have a positive effect on housing prices.

All in all, REALTORS® should expect busier activity in the counties where public school enrollment is rising.

The graph below shows the positive relationship between public school enrollment and housing prices.

 

1 Yun, L., & Evangelou, N. (2016). Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing. National Association of Realtors®.

2 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. National Association of REALTORS®

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