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Catholic School Facts

In honor of the Pope visiting Washington, D.C. this week, we’re highlighting a few facts on Catholic schools, which have been and continue to be an integral part of education and parental choice in the United States. For more information, visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website and the National Catholic Educational Association website.



  • In 2014, about 49.8 million children attended public schools; 4.5 million children attended private schools, with 2 million in Catholic schools. (NCEA)
  • 99% of students who attend Catholic high school graduate. Of those, 86% attend 4-year colleges. (NCEA)
  • The minority population accounts for 19.8% of the Catholic school population (15% Latino; 8% Black/African American; 5% Asian American; 5.6% Multiracial). (NCEA)
  • 45% of Catholic schools in the United States participate in Federal Nutrition Programs, which provide over 270,000 free meals to children daily.
  • The mean cost per pupil at Catholic schools is $5,847; the national per pupil average is $12,054). (NCEA; National Center for Education Statistics)
  • Catholic schools provide over 24 billion dollars a year in savings for the nation. (NCEA)



  • Catholic schools tend to operate as communities rather than bureaucracies, which links to higher levels of teacher commitment, student engagement, and student achievement. [1]
  • The Catholic school climate, mission, and purpose positively impact student achievement and attendance. [2]
  • A faith-based orientation builds coherence and integration of schools and school community.[3]


[1] Marks, G. (2009). Accounting for school-sector differences in university entrance performance. Australian Journal of Education, 53, 19-38.  [2]Bryk, A.S., Lee, V.E., & Holland, P.B. (1993). Catholic Schools and the Common Good. Boston: Harvard University Press. [3] Ibid.


Catholic schools are sacred places helping to build a better society:

  • Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to vote. (Cohen & Chafee, 2012)
  • Catholic school graduates enjoy higher earning potential than public school graduates. (Neal, 1997, p. 108; Owyang, and Vermann, 2012, p. 4)
  • Catholic school graduates are more civically engaged, more tolerant of diverse views, and more committed to service as adults, and less likely to be incarcerated than their public school peers. (Campbell, 2001)


Catholic school emphasis on community stimulates parental engagement:

  • Inner-city Catholic school parents report taking an active role in their children’s education, and they believe that participating in the Catholic school community represents an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. (Stewart, Wolf, et. al, 2009)


Catholic schools generate social cohesion and preserve civic order in the local community:

  • Neighborhood social cohesion decreases and disorder increases following the closure of a Catholic elementary school. (Brinig & Garnett, 2010, p. 890 )
  • Police beats in Chicago that experienced at least one Catholic school closure had a higher crime rate than those in which there were no closures. (Brinig & Garnett, 2011, p. 906)



  • In Catholic schools, the student achievement gap is smaller than in public schools.[1]
  • In Catholic schools, overall academic achievement is higher. [2]
  • In Catholic schools, student math scores improve between sophomore and senior years.[3]
  • Latino and African American students in Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and college. [4]
  • Students with multiple disadvantages benefit most from Catholic schools.[5]


[1] Jeynes, W.H. (2007). Religion, Intact Families, & the Achievement Gap. Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, 3, 1-24; Marks, H.M., and Lee V.E. (1989). National Assessment of Educational Proficiency in Reading 1985-1986: Catholic and Public Schools Compared. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.  [2] Coleman, J., Hoffman, T., & Kilgore, S. (1982). High School Achievement: Catholic and Public Schools Compared. NY: Basic Books; Sander, W. (1996).Catholic Schools: Private and Social Effects. Boston: Kluwer Academic. [3] Covay, E., and Carbonaro W. (2010). After the Bell: Participation in Extra-Curricular Activities, Classroom Behavior, and Academic Achievement. Sociology of Education, 83(1), 20-45.  [4] Jeffrey Grogger and Derek A. Neal; “Further Evidence of the Effects of Catholic Secondary Schooling,” Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs, 2000, pp. 151-93.  [5]  Derek A. Neal; “Measuring Catholic School Performance.” Public Interest, 1997, (127), pp. 81; Derek A. Neal; “The Effects of Catholic Secondary Schooling on Educational Achievement.”Journal of Labor Economics, 1997, 15(1, Part 1), pp. 98-123; Evans, W.N. & Schwab, R.M. (Nov. 1995). “Finishing High School and Starting College: Do Catholic Schools Make a Difference?” Quarterly Journal of Economic, vol. 110, no. 4, 941-974.