Return to Case Study Home

You are shocked (#6)

How about how many college students will be voting in one of the swing states?

(6. Go to this URL and figure it out http://www.census.gov/statab/states/)

One student analyzed the the problem this way...

The information is not clear on this page.  The data for Florida in 1996 reads that 48.2% represents "full-time college enrollment, percent of total," but it is unclear what the total is and how to use this percent.   

Here are some questions that other students asked:

Challenge #6: 
First, analyze the problem.
Then evaluate the solutions below:

Student A �The website provided http://www.census.gov/statab/states was not very helpful. It simply stated that 48.2 percent of students went on to full-time college.  However, it also gave is other statistics from which we can deduce a ballpark estimate. The site said that 23.7 percent of the total population is under 18, or at high school age. It also said that 91.3 percent of those people are in a primary or secondary school. Let's say half of those people are in secondary school. So, by finding out 50 percent of 91.3 percent of 23.7 percent of the total population (1,511,000), we can deduce a ballpark estimate: 150,000-170,000.

Student B: The number of eligible college-aged voters in Florida is approximately 750,000.  This was taken from the given URL: http://www.census.gov/statab/states/.  The 1998 state population minus the population that is under 18 years and the population that is 65 years or older gives the population of 18 years to 64 years.  Since college age is 18 to 22, or four years, and the range from 18 to 64 is 46 years, approximately 4 out of every 46 of the people from age 18 to 64 are age 18 to 22.  That number is around 750,000.

Student C: There are 272,690,813 people in the United States and 15,111,244 people in Florida in 1999.  That means that 5.54% of the U.S. population lives in Florida.  There are 9,323,000 college students (ages 18-24 full- and part-time) in the United States. http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/school/taba-6.txt   Assuming** that 5.54% of them are enrolled in Florida, there are about 516,500 in Florida. 
**I am assuming that the percentage of US college enrollment that lives in Florida is the same as the percentage of US total population that lives in Florida.

Student D: I found "American Demographics" web site by searching demographics on the Librarian's Index to the Internet http://lii.org/ which I got from "Choose the best search for your purpose" http://nuevaschool.org/~_scripts/debbie/library/research/adviceengine.html  I checked the box for natural language and searched "college enrollment."  I found http://www.marketingtools.com/publications/ad/97_ad/9710_ad/ad97102.htm and searched the page for "Florida" and got a table.  By adding the four numbers for Florida, I found that the total Florida college enrollment in 1997 was 734,107 and the total Florida college enrollment in 2007 will be 885,591.  To estimate the total Florida college enrollment in 2000 I calculated 3/10 (from 1997-2007 is 10 years) of the difference between these numbers and added that to the 1997 number which gave me the total Florida college enrollment in 2000 = 779,552.  But, this is for ALL AGES, not just up to age 24.  Now we need to know what percentage are 18-24 years old.  Using http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/school/taba-6.txt in the whole country in 1998 there were 15,546,000 college students of all ages.  There are 9,323,000 between 18 and 24, or just about exactly 60%.  I assume that the same percentage will hold in 2000 also and that the same percentage holds for Florida as for the whole country.  I take 60% of the total Florida college enrollment of 799,552 and get 467,730 college students between 18 and 24 in Florida in year 2000.

Student E: "The page at http://www.fec.gov/pages/96to.htm tells us that Oregon has a 57.14% turnout for the 1996 presidential election. If college students have 20% more turnout than the general public, then they will have a 70.14% turnout rate. The college board page at http://www2.collegeboard.com/search/CollegeDetail1.jsp?buttonPressed=&collegeId=2148&detailPageId=0&startIndex=&endIndex=&collegeName=Portland+State+University says that there are 15,000 students at the University of Portland, so with the turnout rate there will be 10,521 students voting from Portland State University.  

Student F: "I did a Google search on college enrollment Florida with no quotes and the third site sounded good so I went there. It is http://www.collegeboard.org/aes/highered/html/sld041.html There I went to 1998 High School Seniors: Graduation and Four-Year College Enrollment: Florida. I knew that this was only the number of seniors who enrolled in '98 but I figured that the numbers would be roughly the same. So I multiplied this number (29,592) by four to get the total # of students currently enrolled in a four year college in Florida. I got 118,368. But that isn't exactly what I need. Not all these students are going to vote after all. So I decided that, since only 26% of college students think politics is important, 26% of 118,368 would be my final answer for this question. That means that 30,775.68 college students voted in Florida. Please remember that this is only an approximation, though.

Student G:  48.2% of all 18-21 year-olds in Florida go to college as of 1996. This number is 2,661,391.631 (approx). I got this number by subtracting the number of too-young-to-vote people (3,581,307) from the total population. (15,111,000) Then I subtracted the too-old-to-be-in-college people (2,765,313) from this number. What�s left are the 18-65-year-olds. (8,764,380) 6.35% of these are the 18-21-year-olds. (5,521,559.4) 48.2% of these people go to college. That number is above.

Student H: I realized that I didn't understand what the table meant so I went to the "Contact Us" information on the main page and wrote to pop@census.gov which was the e-mail for population information.  I got an automated response that said they would get back to me.   The very next work day I got this e-mail:

"You can obtain school enrollment of the population 3 to 34 years old, by level and control of school, race, and Hispanic origin from October 1955 to 1998 on the Internet at: http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/school.html Go to Table A-1. Thank you for requesting census data." Karen Kay Jones
pop@census.gov
Statistical Information Staff
Population Division
U.S. Census Bureau
301-457-2422
www.census.gov

Student I: I called the Educational Branch of the U.S.Census Bureau 1-301-457-2464 and spoke to Eric Neuberger who looked at the web site from "You are Shocked" and couldn't figure out what the "percent of total" meant either.  He said that the information was taken from the Statistical Abstracts of the United States and sent me to the National Center for Educational Statistics 1-800-424-1616 where I spoke to Vance Grant who looked it up for me in the Statistical Abstracts book.  He told me that the total college enrollment in Florida was 645,832 of which 313,361 are full time.  He helped me figure out that this number jived with the information on the web page of "Your are Shocked.  "Full time college enrollment, percent of total" means that, of the total number of both full and part-time students enrolled in Florida colleges and universities, 48.2% (he said that it was 48.5% because his numbers were probably rounded off) or 313,361 were full-time college students in Florida. 

Also, he showed me how to get to this information online.