C.C.C. Enrollee Education- Evidence From The 1940 Census

Another piece of useful information from the 1940 census lies in column 14 "Highest Grade Of School Completed." Using the 1940 census information available from a limited number of Kansas camps, we can see notable differences between the level of education listed among the older generation veteran C.C.C. enrollees when compared to that of the younger cohort of junior enrollees. This distinction is indicative of the "high school movement" that became the new paradigm for public education beginning in the early 1900s. While in the "common school" of the latter half of the 1800s, students rarely attended school past age 14, having attended up to six years of schooling by that time. By the time of the 1940 census, a public school system comprised of elementary, junior high, and high school levels was common in both urban and rural settings. Whereas in 1910 only 20% of 15 to 18 year olds attended high school and slightly less than 10% graduated, by 1940 those numbers had increased to nearly 75% attendance and more than 50% graduating (Goldin & Katz, 2008:195).

Our cohort of Kansas veterans comes from Co. 4718 (Spivey, Kingman County) and Co. 4719 (Ottawa, Franklin County) while the junior enrollees come from Co. 784 (Neodesha, Wilson County) and Co. 4717 (Parsons, Labette County). These companies are the only ones for which significant numbers of enrollees were identified in the enumeration at the camp and/or adjacent areas (as is the case with Co. 4719). The results are presented in the table below.

Highest Grade Level Achieved- 
Kansas C.C.C. Camp Sample
(Based 1940 Federal Census Data)



 Freshman-H 3347
College Undergraduate441
College Graduate11

College Post-Graduate1


The totals and distributions among the two veteran companies is very comparable suggesting that the totals may well be representative of veteran C.C.C. companies in general. A noticeable ceiling is found at the eighth grade level in both groups of veterans with right at 45% of the men completing eighth grade and around 28% having ended their education prior to this point. This total of 73% of veteran C.C.C. enrollees having completed no higher than 8th grade can be contrasted with the 73% of junior enrollees overall who had attended at least one year of high school. Over half of that number (54%) had completed three years of study and 33% had earned a diploma. Only one junior enrollee had continued on to complete any college while about 7% of veterans had attended college. By comparison, no junior enrollees had failed to complete at least 6th grade while 12% of veteran members had less than a 6th grade education.

Another point I found interesting is that while 80% of the junior enrollees in the Co. 784 had attended school beyond the 8th grade, only slightly fewer African-American enrollees (70%) had likewise. Both had comparable numbers that had completed at least three years of high school (58% v. 51%). A distinction among these two groups comes in the rate of high school graduation where 53% of Whites versus only 23% of African-American enrollees had completed their high school studies. This distinction probably has more to do with the fact that only 4 enrollees (17%) in Co. 784 were age 17 while 24 of the young men (48%) in Co. 4717 were 17 (including 7 of those who had attended three years of high school). Perhaps these differences are an indication of the relative level of need that their respective families were experiencing and their response to this as young men who might provide much needed additional support to their families. It seems apparent that educational opportunities for both young African-Americans and Whites was distinctly higher than that of their parents generation represented by the C.C.C. veterans.

2008  Goldin, Claudia Dale and Lawrence F. Katz
          The Race Between Education and Technology. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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