Education: Out of School

In 1970 a Massachusetts survey revealed that thousands of school-age children in Boston were not enrolled in the city's public or private schools. Spurred by that report, the Washington-based Children's Defense Fund, a privately financed nonprofit agency, decided to conduct a national survey. After an analysis of 1970 census data and 6,500 personal interviews in nine states, the C.D.F. has now issued its own shocking statistic: some 2 million U.S. children from age seven to 17 are not enrolled in school.

Many of the out-of-school children had one thing in common: poverty. In...

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