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Dropout Rates in the United States: 1995

Event, Status, And Cohort Dropout Rates

To provide a more detailed picture of dropouts in the United States, the (NCES) defines and calculates different types of dropout rates. This section concentrates on three of these ratesevent, status, and cohorteach of which provides unique information about the student dropout population. Data from the CPS are also used to compute high school graduation and completion rates that, when examined within racial and ethnic groups, and across states and geographical regions, can provide a more detailed understanding of the dropout phenomenon.

Types of Dropout Rates

  • Event rates describe the proportion of students who leave high school each year without completing a high school program. Offering an annual measure of recent dropout occurrences, event rates can provide important information about how effective educators are in keeping students enrolled in school.

  • Status rates provide cumulative data on dropouts among all young adults within a specified age range. Generally, status rates are much higher than event rates because they include all dropouts regardless of when they last attended school. Since status rates reveal the extent of the dropout problem in the population, this rate also can be used to estimate the need for further education and training that will help dropouts participate fully in the economy and life of the nation.

  • Cohort rates measure what happens to a cohort of students over a period of time. This rate is based on repeated measures of a group of students with shared experiences, and reveals how many students starting in a specific grade drop out over time. Typically, cohort rates from longitudinal studies provide more background and contextual data on the students who drop out than are available through the CPS or CCD data collections.

Event Dropout Rates

Event rates calculated using the October 1995 CPS data measure the proportion of individuals who dropped out of school over the 12-month period beginning in October 1994. Data are based on the number of 15- through 24-year-olds who were enrolled in high school a year ago, are not presently enrolled in grades 1012, and have not yet completed high school.\13\  Demographic data collected as part of the CPS study permit event dropout rates to be calculated across a variety of individual characteristics, including race, sex, region of residence, and income level.

Data from the CPS show that one-half million of the 9.5 million 15- through 24-year-olds enrolled in grades 1012 in October 1994 left school by October of 1995 without successfully completing a high school program (see table C1).\14\  This amounts to 5.7 percent of this group of young adults (table 1).

 

Table 1 Event dropout and persistence rates and number and distribution of dropouts from
grades 1012, ages 1524, by background characteristics: October 1995

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Event     School
                                  dropout   persistence Number      Percent
                                  rate      rate        of dropouts of all
Characteristics                  (percent) (percent)   (thousands) dropouts
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Total                            5.7        94.3         544      100
Sex
   Male                             6.2        93.8         297     54.6
   Female                           5.3        94.7         247     45.4
Race-ethnicity\1\
   White, non-Hispanic              4.5        95.5         296     54.3
   Black, non-Hispanic              6.4        93.6          93     17.1
   Hispanic                        12.4        87.6         145     26.6
Family income\2\
   Low income level                13.3        86.7         182     33.5
   Middle income level              5.7        94.3         305     56.1
   High income level                  2          98          57     10.4
Region
   Northeast                          3          97          54      9.9
   Midwest                          4.2        95.8          99     18.2
   South                            7.2        92.8         239     43.9
   West                             7.4        92.6         153     28.1
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
1/ Due to relatively small sample sizes, American Indian/Alaskan Natives and
Asian/Pacific Islanders are included in the total but are not shown separately.
2/ Low income is defined as the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes for
1994; middle income is between 20 and 80 percent of all family incomes; and
high income is the top 20 percent of all family incomes. See the technical
appendix to this report for a full definition of family income.
NOTE: Because of rounding, details may not add to totals.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census,
Current Population Survey, October 1995, unpublished data.

This estimate of 5.7 percent for the event dropout rate is on a par with the estimates for this rate over the last 24 years (figure 1 and table A33).\15\  Over this period annual estimates of the event dropout rate have fluctuated between 4.0 and 6.7 percent. Although a downward trend in the estimates in the 1980s was encouraging, more recent estimates do not show continuing improvements. Moreover, changes in the CPS data collection strategies complicate the analysis of recent estimates.\16\  Given the changes in survey methodology, the best that can be said at this time is that the percent of young adults leaving school each year without successfully completing a high school program decreased from 1972 through 1986, but has neither increased or decreased since the late 1980s.

 

Figure 1:-Event dropout rates for grades 10-12, ages 15-24, by race-ethnicity: October 1972 through October 1995
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey,
 October (various years), unpublished data.

Race-ethnicity

The 1995 CPS data confirm the finding from earlier studies that race-ethnicity is strongly associated with dropping out of school. For example, cohort studies using national longitudinal data about American high school students, such as the High School and Beyond (HS&B) study sponsored by NCES, show that Hispanics and blacks are at greater risk of dropping out than whites, with Hispanics at greatest risk of these groups.\17\  More recently, analyses of data from the NCES study of National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88), and analyses reported by the White House Panel on Hispanic dropouts also confirm these patterns. \18\  A closer look at the 1995 CPS data shows that Hispanic students are indeed more likely than white students to leave school short of completing a high school program (12.4 percent versus 4.5 percent). Although the estimated rate for black students (6.4 percent) falls between the rates for Hispanics and whites, the differences are not significant (table 1).

While membership in a particular minority group may be associated with higher dropout rates, race-ethnicity is only one of a number of closely linked factors that mediate the dropout decision. For example, socioeconomic status, the ability to communicate in English, and the geographic region of residence are all highly correlated with individuals racial and ethnic background. It is, however, beyond the scope of this report to evaluate all of the specific interactions among intervening variables that mediate the dropout decision. The following sections review some of the primary factors that are associated with higher event dropout rates.\19\ 

Income

Family income data available from CPS provide information about the impact of socioeconomic background and home environment on the dropout decision of these young adults. Certainly the multitude of factors that impact their lives is much broader than their economic conditions; however, in the absence of additional measures, family income has been found to serve as a good indicator for the range of social factors that may affect a young adult's decision to stay in school.

In fact, income, or more likely the social factors affected by income, does seem to make a difference. In 1995, young adults living in families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent of all family incomes were six times as likely as their peers from families in the top 20 percent of the income distribution to drop out (table 1). As Figure 2 shows, this finding persists over time. Since 1972 individuals from low income families have been consistently more likely to drop out than individuals from high and middle income families (those whose incomes are in the middle 60 percent of the distribution).

Figure 2:- Event dropout rates for grades 10-12, ages 15-24, by family income: October 1972 through October 1995
NOTE: Data on family income are missing for 1974.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey,
October (various years), unpublished data.

Age

Students who remain in school after the majority of their age cohort has left are more likely to drop out than their younger peers (table 2). By October of 1995, only about 6 percent of all 19-year-olds were still enrolled in high school. The dropout rate among 19-year-olds who were enrolled in school a year earlier was approximately 15 percent (table 2 and table C11). By age 20 the percent enrolled was down to 1.9 percent, and by age 24 it was down to 0.4 percent. The dropout rate among the 20- to 24-year-olds who were enrolled in school a year earlier was almost 30 percent. These high dropout rates at ages 19 through 24 suggest that students who fall behind their age cohort in school are at increased risk of dropping out of school. CPS data available this year on grade retention, dropout rates, and educational attainment levels will help inform this issue.

Table 2:-Event dropout and persistence rates and number and distribution of dropouts
from grades 10-12, ages 15-24, by age group: October 1995

--------------------------------------------------------------------
                      Event      School
                      dropout    persistence Number       Percent
                      rate       rate        of dropouts  of all
Age                  (percent)  (percent)   (thousands)   dropouts
--------------------------------------------------------------------
   Total                5.7       94.3        544          100.0
Age*
 15-16                  4.0       96.0        110           20.1
 17                     3.2       96.8        102           18.8
 18                     5.9       94.1        155           28.6
 19                    14.8       85.2         96           17.6
 20-24                 29.4       70.6         81           14.9
--------------------------------------------------------------------
* Age when a person dropped out may be one year younger, because the
dropout event could occur at any time over a 12-month period.
NOTE: Because of rounding, details may not add to totals.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census,
Current Population Survey, October 1995, unpublished data.

Despite the high dropout rates observed at ages 19 through 24, these young adults only account for a small proportion of all students who left school prior to a successful completion between October of 1994 and October of 1995. Youths ages 15 through 18 account for two-thirds of all those who dropped out during the preceding year; moreover, nearly 40 percent of the 1995 dropouts were 15 through 17 years of age. These are the young adults who left school short of what likely would be expected for a normal school completion. While there may be obvious reasons why older youths elect to leave school prior to graduating:-for example to find employment or seek vocational training:-understanding why younger students with fewer career options choose to leave school early and designing effective intervention programs to address this problem are issues deserving greater study.\20\

State Dropout Rates

NCES, through the National Cooperative for Elementary and Secondary Education Statistics and the CCD collection, is working with states and school districts to develop a national database of public school dropout rates. When complete, event data for sex, race-ethnicity, and for grades 7 through 12 will be collected at the school district level, aggregated, and reported at the state and national levels.

In the 1994-95 school year collection, 43 states plus the District of Columbia submitted dropout data to CCD for dropouts from the 1993-94 school year. Data from 23 states meet the quality and comparability levels necessary for publishing state level estimates that support valid cross state comparisons. The middle case, or median, of the dropout rates for these states is 5.0 percent, with the rates ranging from 2.7 percent in North Dakota to 9.7 percent in Nevada (table 3).

Table 3:-Membership, dropout counts, and event dropout rates for grades 9-12, 1993-94

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Dropout                             Dropout
State                                   count          Membership          rate(%)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alabama                                 11,679             203,073            5.8
Arkansas                                 6,674             126,496            5.3
California                              75,705           1,424,066            5.3
Connecticut                              6,209             128,798            4.8
Delaware                                 1,343              28,930            4.6
Georgia                                 28,352             324,879            8.7
Hawaii                                   2,485              48,756            5.1
Iowa                                     4,609             145,678            3.2
Kansas                                   6,371             127,077            5.0
Louisiana                                9,895             211,785            4.7
Maine                                    1,729              56,231            3.1
Massachusetts                            8,674             233,987            3.7
Minnesota                               11,715             230,268            5.1
Mississippi                              8,273             135,192            6.1
Missouri                                17,107             244,032            7.0
Nebraska                                 3,778              81,635            4.6
Nevada                                   5,950              61,069            9.7
New Mexico                               7,107              89,175            8.0
North Dakota                               941              35,086            2.7
Oregon                                  10,718             147,066            7.3
Pennsylvania                            18,859             503,988            3.7
Rhode Island                             1,918              39,228            4.9
Texas                                   34,684             927,154            3.7
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics, Common Core of Data, universe collection, 1996.

Status Dropout Rates

Over the last decade, 300 to 500 thousand 10th through 12th graders left school each year without successfully completing a high school program.\21\  Each year some of these young adults return to school or participate in an alternative certification program, and others pass out of this age group. Nonetheless, the cumulative effect of having so many young adults participate in the event of dropping out is reflected in the fact that each year during the last decade over 3 million 16- through 24-year-olds have shared the status of dropouts. In October of 1995 there were nearly 3.9 million young adults ages 16 through 24 who were not enrolled in a high school program and had not completed high school (table 4). These youths account for 12.0 percent of the 32.4 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States in 1995.

Table 4:- Rate and number of status dropouts, ages 16-24: October 1991 through October 1995

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              October
                                  1991   19921   19931    19941,2  19951,2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Status dropout rate               12.5    11.0    11.0      11.5      12.0
(percent)
Number of status dropouts        3,881   3,410   3,396     3,727     3,876
(in thousands)
Population                      31,171  30,944  30,845    32,560    32,379
(in thousands)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
1/ Numbers for these years reflect new wording of the educational attainment
item in the CPS.
2/ Numbers in these years may reflect changes in CPS due to newly instituted
computer assisted interviewing and/or due to the change in the population
controls to the 1990 Census-based estimates, with adjustment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population
Survey, October (various years), unpublished data.
The 1995 status dropout rate of 12.0 percent is similar to the rates experienced since the mid-1980s, but lower than the rates of 13.1 to 14.6 percent that occurred between 1972 and 1984 (figure 3 and table A37). While the year to year fluctuations make it difficult to form short term comparisons, a time-series analysis based on the annual data provides a framework for describing longer term patterns of change. Over the last 24 years there has been an overall pattern of decline that on average amounts to a change of 0.15 percent per year.

Figure 3:-Status dropout rates for persons ages 16-24, by race-ethnicity: October 1972 through October 1995
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey,
October (various years), unpublished data.

 

Race-Ethnicity

In 1995, the 1.9 million white youths who were high school dropouts made up 8.6 percent of all whites between the ages of 16 and 24 (table 5). Another 1.3 million dropouts were Hispanics; this amounts to nearly one-third of all Hispanics in the 16- through 24-year-old age group. About 12.1 percent of all blacks in this age group were dropouts (representing 571 thousand persons).

Figure 3 shows that while there are still differences in the levels of the status dropout rates of whites, blacks, and Hispanics, the gap between the rates for blacks and whites is closing. The 3.5 percentage point difference in the 1995 rates is substantially smaller than the difference of 10 to 11 percentage points observed 20 years ago. Over this time period the rates fell in both groups, but the narrowing gap is due to a more rapid rate of improvement for blacks than whites (See table A37 for detail).

Table 5:- Rate, number, and distribution of status dropouts, ages 16-24, by sex, race-ethnicity, income, and region: October 1995

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Number of
                               Status        status                         Percent        Percent
                               dropout      dropouts          Population     of all           of
Characteristics                 rate     (in thousands)     (in thousands)  dropouts      population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Total                        12.0           3,876             32,379      100.0          100.0
Sex
   Male                         12.2           1,978             16,208       51.0           50.1
   Female                       11.7           1,898             16,170       49.0           49.9
Race-ethnicity\1\
   White, non-Hispanic           8.6           1,887             21,991       48.7           67.9
   Black, non-Hispanic          12.1             571              4,732       14.7           14.6
   Hispanic                     30.0           1,345              4,485       34.7           13.9
Family income\2\
   Low income level             23.2           1,558              6,726       40.2           20.8
   Middle income level          11.5           2,108             18,365       54.4           56.7
   High income level             2.9             210              7,287        5.4           22.5
Region
   Northeast                     8.4             498              5,935       12.9           18.3
   Midwest                       8.9             680              7,686       17.6           23.7
   South                        14.2           1,657             11,638       42.8           35.9
   West                         14.6           1,040              7,120       26.8           22.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------       
1/ Due to relatively small sample sizes, American Indian/Alaskan Natives and Asian/Pacific
Islanders are included in the total but are not shown separately.
2/ Low income is defined as the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes for 1994; middle
income is between 20 and 80 percent of all family incomes; and high income is the top 20
percent of all family incomes.
NOTE: Because of rounding, details may not add to totals.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current
Population Survey, October 1995, unpublished data.

Over the same time period, the percent of Hispanic young adults without high school certification has fluctuated around one-third, at a level consistently higher than the status dropout rates observed for black and white young adults. The high dropout rates for Hispanic youths do not show the full extent of educational differences between Hispanic youths and their black and white peers. In addition to higher dropout rates, many Hispanic dropouts do not progress as far in school as black and white students who drop out. In 1995, over half of the Hispanic dropouts reported less than a tenth grade education, compared with 31.1 percent of the white dropouts and 26.6 percent of the black dropouts (table 6).

Table 6:-Percentage distribution of status dropouts, ages 16-24, by level of schooling attained and
race-ethnicity: October 1995

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Race-ethnicity*
                                             ----------------------------------------
                                                White,          Black,
Level of schooling attained           Total   non-Hispanic   non-Hispanic  Hispanic
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Total                              100.0       100.0         100.0          100.0
Level of schooling attained
   Less than 1st grade                  1.6         1.0           1.0            2.3
   1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade          2.5         0.3           0.3            6.6
   5th or 6th grade                     6.1         0.9           0.9           15.9
   7th or 8th grade                    12.0        12.6           7.4           13.2
   Less than 9th grade                 22.2        14.8           9.6           38.0
   9th grade                           17.0        16.4          17.0           17.9
   Less than 10th grade                39.2        31.1          26.6           55.9
   10th grade                          22.5        26.6          30.6           13.8
   11th grade                          28.4        32.9          36.1           18.6
   12th grade, without diploma          9.9         9.5           6.8           11.8
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Due to relatively small sample sizes, American Indian/Alaskan Natives and Asian/Pacific
Islanders are included in the total but are not shown separately.
NOTE: Because of rounding, details may not add to totals.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current
Population Survey, October 1995, unpublished data.

What accounts for these differences? Previous analyses have shown that the dropout rate is high among Hispanics who were born outside the United States (43.0 percent in 1989).\22\  It may well be the case that some of these "dropouts" are immigrants who never entered schools in this country. Similarly, earlier analyses have shown that dropout rates are high among Hispanic young adults who speak Spanish at home (32 percent for Spanish speaking versus 14 percent for English speaking in 1992) and among Hispanic young adults who report speaking English not well or not at all (62 percent and 83 percent, respectively).\23\  Clearly, language limitations are associated with failure to complete a high school program.

Regardless of the reasons behind their lack of high school credentials, the impact is the same: these young adults do not have the basic level of education that is thought to be essential in today's economy. While Hispanics as a group appear to have lower educational outcomes than white and black non-Hispanics, there are at least two subgroups of dropouts among Hispanic youths who migrated to this country: those who entered U.S. schools and subsequently dropped out, and those who never enrolled in a U.S. school. A better understanding of the relative sizes of these two groups, coupled with data on the English-speaking ability of the young adults in each of these groups, can improve our understanding of the role that language may play in keeping these rates high. Because of this, an analysis of CPS data available this year on language use, participation in U.S. schools, and high school completion status is provided in subsequent chapters to help inform this issue.

Income

The importance of family income and related social factors highlighted in the discussion of event dropout rates shows up in the status dropout rates as well. In this case, youths from families with the lowest incomes are eight times more likely than their peers from families with high incomes to be in the group of young adults who are out of school without high school certification (table 7).

Table 7: Status dropout rate, ages 16-24, by income and race-ethnicity: October 1995

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Race-ethnicity1
                                      --------------------------------------
                                         White,         Black,
Family income              Total      non-Hispanic   non-Hispanic   Hispanic
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Total                  12.0          8.6           12.1          30.0
Family income2
     Low income level       23.2         18.6           20.1          38.9
     Middle income level    11.5          8.8            8.7          28.2
     High income level       2.9          2.6            3.2           8.7
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
1/ Due to relatively small sample sizes, American Indian/Alaskan Natives and
Asian/Pacific Islanders are included in the total but are not shown separately.
2/ Low income is defined as the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes for 1995;
middle income is between 20 and 80 percent of all family incomes; and high income
is the top 20 percent of all family incomes.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current
Population Survey, October 1995, unpublished data.

Which youths are most likely to be affected by these income differentials? Within each race-ethnicity group, status dropout rates are lowest at the highest income levels and highest at the lowest income levels. And, within each income level the aggregate difference observed between white and black youths is no longer evident. In other words, white and black youths from families at the highest income levels have a similar risk of not completing a high school program (only about 3 percent are status dropouts), and this risk is lower than youths from lower income levels. Moreover, black and white youths from families at the lowest income levels are at increased risk of not completing high school (about 19 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks are status dropouts).

Evidently, at least part of the 3.5 percentage point difference between the rates for blacks and whites is related to differences in the income distributions within the two groups. At each income level, the percent of black young adults who drop out is about the same as the percent of white young adults who drop out. However, a large share of the black young adult population live with families with low incomes-where the highest dropout rates occur for both black and white youth. (35 percent for black youth, compared to 15 percent for white youth).

Although the pattern of dropout rates by income level is the same for Hispanics, the higher rates observed for Hispanics persist. While Hispanic young adults from families with low and middle incomes are the more likely to drop out than Hispanic youth from families with high incomes, Hispanic youth from families with low and middle incomes are more likely to drop out than white and black youths at the same income levels. Thus, the higher dropout rates experienced by Hispanic youth appear to be due, at least in part, to factors other than income.

Geographic Region

Concerns over dropout rates frequently lead to geographic comparisons. At the regional level, status dropout rates are highest in the Southern and Western regions of the country, where rates of 14.2 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively, are at least one and one-half times the rates of 8.4 percent in the Northeast and 8.9 percent in the Midwest (table 8). But these regional differences are not repeated within each race-ethnicity group. Among white young adults, the highest status dropout rates are in the South (11.8 percent versus 8.0 percent in the West, 6.1 percent in the Northeast, and 7.0 percent in the Midwest). Any apparent differences across the regions for blacks or Hispanics are not statistically significant, due at least in part to large standard errors associated with small sample sizes.

Table 8: Status dropout rate, ages 16-24, by region and race-ethnicity: October 1995

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Race-ethnicity*
                             -------------------------------------------
                                White,           Black,
Region               Total   non-Hispanic     non-Hispanic     Hispanic
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Total               12.0        8.6            12.1            30.0
Region
 Northeast            8.4        6.1             9.3            23.6
 Midwest              8.9        7.0            14.2            28.0
 South               14.2       11.8            12.7            30.3
 West                14.6        8.0             7.9            32.1
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
*  Due to relatively small sample sizes, American Indian/Alaskan Natives
and Asian/Pacific Islanders are included in the total but are not shown
separately.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census,
Current Population Survey, October 1995, unpublished data.

Cohort Dropout Rates

Longitudinal studies follow the experiences that a cohort of students share as they progress through school. This type of study provides an opportunity to examine in more detail questions about who drops out, the life circumstances of dropouts, the factors that influence the decision to drop out of high school, and the experiences young adults encounter after leaving school. The NELS:88 started with the cohort of students who were in the eighth grade in the 1987-88 school year.\24\  Subsequently, these students were re-interviewed at two year intervals through 1994.\25\ 

Table 9: NELS:88 8th- to 12th-grade cohort dropout rates, by sex
and race-ethnicity:1992 and 1994

-------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Cohort dropout rate
                          -----------------------------------------
                           Spring     Spring     August     August
Characteristics           1990-921    1988-92     1992       1994
------------------------------------------------------------------
  Total                      7.1       10.8       10.1        7.2
Sex
  Male                       6.9       10.3        9.8        7.5
  Female                     7.4       11.3       10.4        6.9
Race-ethnicity2
  Asian/Pacific Islander     3.9        4.9        4.3        5.1
  Hispanic                  12.2       17.8       17.9       14.3
  Black, non-Hispanic        9.1       13.4       12.7        8.4
  White, non-Hispanic        5.9        9.1        8.3        5.7
  Native American           22.3       30.4       30.4       16.9
-------------------------------------------------------------------
1/  The denominator for this rate includes the members of the 1988
 eighth-grade cohort who were still enrolled in school in the spring
 of 1990; excluded are students who dropped out between 1988 and 1990
 and students who migrated out of the country or died. 
2/  Not shown separately are 434 persons (approximately 2 percent of
the unweighted sample) whose race-ethnicity is unknown.
NOTE: This table is based on the core cohort of eighth graders (i.e.,
this sample excludes students in the base year sample whose sex, race,
and dropout status were determined through the Followback Study of
Excluded Students). As such, numbers may differ from earlier reports.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center
for Education Statistics, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988
Base-Year, First, and Second Follow-up Survey, 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1994,
unpublished data.

The cohort dropout rates for the eighth-grade class of 1988 show that by the spring of 1992, 10.8 percent of the 1988 cohort of eighth graders were out of school and had not completed a high school program (table 9). Some of these dropouts completed a high school program over the following summer, so that by August of 1992 the size of this group was reduced to 10.1 percent. By August of 1994, only 7.2 percent of the cohort remained as dropouts who were not working towards completing high school.

Analysis of the outcomes experienced by these dropouts shows that, relative to their peers who completed high school, they were less likely to participate in postsecondary education; on average, they earned lower incomes; and they were more likely to be unemployed or out of the labor force. They were also more likely to make early transitions into adult roles:-to have children and marry or live in marriage-like arrangements.\26\

Comparisons can also be drawn across cohorts measured at the same point in their school careers but in different years. The NELS:88 also included a nationally representative sample of sophomores in 1990; these students were re-interviewed in 1992 and 1994. Comparable data were collected for sophomores in 1980 in the HS&B study; these students were re-interviewed in 1982 and 1984.

A comparison of cohort dropout rates from the 1980 and 1990 sophomore classes shows that 9.9 percent of the students who were sophomores in 1980 were high school dropouts by August of the 1981-82 school year (table 10).\27\  For the sophomore class of 1990, the cohort dropout rate was lower, with 5.6 percent of the students who were counted as sophomores in 1990 counted as dropouts by August of the 1991-92 school year.\28\  This amounts to a 43 percent reduction in the sophomore to senior dropout rate over the decade.\29\

Decreases in dropout rates were widespread, with a number of different groups of students sharing in the decline. Dropout rates decreased for both male and female students, for white, black, and Hispanic students, for students in intact families and non-intact families, and for students with children of their own living in their household. At the same time, students in poverty and with relatively poor academic achievement seem to be left untouched by the combination of factors that have led to lower dropout rates during the last 10 years. Sophomores with these characteristics dropped out at comparable rates in 1980 and 1990.\30\

Table 10: HS&B and NELS:88 10th- to 12th-grade cohort dropout
rates, by demographic characteristics: August 1982 and 1992

-----------------------------------------------------
                           Cohort dropout rate
                          ---------------------------
                             HS&B        NELS:88
Status in 10th grade       1980-82       1990-92
-----------------------------------------------------
    Total                     9.9           5.6
Sex
    Male                     11.0           5.2
    Female                    9.0           6.0
Race-ethnicity*
    Asian/Pacific Islander    2.2           4.6
    Hispanic                 16.8          10.9
    Black, non-Hispanic      11.3           7.6
    White, non-Hispanic       8.8           4.3
    Native American          25.1          18.2
Family below poverty level
    Yes                      13.0          10.9
    No                        6.1           3.6
Family composition
    Intact family             5.5           4.2
    Two adults/step-parents  12.9           7.9
    Single parent            11.0           7.4
    Other                    19.8          10.4
Own child in home
    Yes
    Male                     19.4           6.8
    Female                   33.0          18.3
    No
    Male                      8.3           5.1
    Female                    7.0           5.5
-----------------------------------------------------
*  Not shown separately are those included in the total
whose race-ethnicity is unknown.
NOTE: See the technical appendix for the definitions of
poverty and family composition used in these tables.
SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for
Education Statistics, High School and Beyond Study, Sophomore
cohort, First Follow-up Survey, 1982, unpublished data. U.S.
Department of Education, ,
National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 First and Second
Follow-up Surveys, 1990 and 1992, unpublished data.

 


Footnotes:

13/  Specifically, the numerator of the event rate for 1995 is the number of persons 15 through 24 years old surveyed in 1995 who were enrolled in high school in October of 1994, were not enrolled in October of 1995, and who also did not complete high school (i.e., had not received a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate) between October 1994 and October 1995. The denominator of the event rate is the sum of the dropouts (i.e., the numerator) and the number of all persons 15 through 24 years old who attended grades 10 through 12 and are still enrolled or who graduated or completed high school.

14/  Completion includes receiving an alternative credential such as a GED.

15/  There were seven years during this 24-year period with rates of 4.0 to 4.7 which are significantly lower than the current year estimate: 1986, 1987 and 1989-93.

16/  In 1992 the wording of the educational attainment item was changed. Then in 1994, computer assisted interviewing was instituted and the population controls that are used to produce the final estimates were changed from 1980 Census-based estimates to 1990 Census-based estimates, with adjustment for undercount. See the discussions in the Introduction and the Technical Notes for more details on the potential impact of these changes.

17/  See R. Ekstron, M. Goertz, J. Pollack and D. Rock. 1987. Who Drops Out of High School and Why? Findings from a National Study. In School Dropouts: Patterns and Policies, G. Natriello (Ed.). New York: Teachers College Press, 52-69. For dropout data using the National Education Longitudinal Study, see the NCES publication, Dropout Rates in the United States: 1994.

18/  P. Kaufman and M. McMillen. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1994. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 96-863; White House Panel on Hispanic Dropouts, Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs, 1996.

19/  For more in-depth coverage on the interaction of race-ethnicity with other factors, the interested reader is referred to G. Natriello [Ed.] 1987. School Dropouts: Patterns and Policies. New York: Teachers College Press. For an excellent ethnographic depiction of these factors at work, see M. Fine. 1991. Framing Dropouts. New York: State University of New York Press.

20/   Some preliminary research into the issue has already taken place. For a description of related issues and some policy recommendations, see D.E. Berkell and J.M. Brown. 1989. Transition from School to Work for Persons with Disabilities. New York: Longman, Inc. State grantees participating in the current federal School-to-Work initiative may contribute greater understanding of this issue, in part, because federal School-to-Work legislation encourages states to target services to disabled, low-achieving, and other at-risk students.

21/   For data from 1985-1990, see P. Kaufman and M. Frase. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1989. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 90-659; P. Kaufman and M. McMillen. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1990. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 91-053.

22/   P. Kaufman, M. McMillen and D. Bradby. 1991. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1991. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 92-129.

23/  M. McMillen and P. Kaufman. 1996. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1994. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 96-863.

24/   For more information see: S. Ingels, S. Abraham, K. Rasinski, R. Karr, B. Spencer, M. Frankel and J. Owings. NELS:88 Base Year Data File User's Manuals: Student Component: March 1990, NCES 90-464; Parent Component: March 1990, NCES 90-466; School Component: March 1990, NCES 90-482; and Teacher Component: March 1990, NCES 90-484; and B. Spencer, M. Frankel, S. Ingels, K. Rasinski and R. Tourangeau. NELS:88 Base Year Sample Design Report, August 1990; NCES 90-463.

25/  Although these rates suggest a decrease in the cohort dropout rate as this cohort ages, the apparent differences are not statistically significant.

26/   M. McMillen, P. Kaufman and S. Whitener. 1993. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1993. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 94-669.

27/  Previous analyses of HS&B data from the spring 1982 followup counted students who had enrolled in alternative programs to prepare for a high school equivalency test or who had completed high school by an alternative means as dropouts. See S.M. Barro and A. Kolstad, Who Drops Out of High School? Findings from High School and Beyond (1987); and A. Pallas, School Dropouts in the United States, Issue Paper, U.S. Department of Education, Center for Education Statistics (1987). The analysis presented here treats them as students or completers.

28/  M. McMillen and P. Kaufman. 1996. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1994. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 96-863.

29/  In both HS&B and NELS:88, a subset of students who were not considered capable of completing the questionnaire were deemed ineligible for participation in the study. Inasmuch as no attempt was made to identify and include data from students deemed ineligible in the 1980 HS&B cohort, analyses that compare NELS:88 sophomores with HS&B sophomores do not include data reflecting the experiences of the ineligible students in NELS:88. The option for the school coordinators to determine some students ineligible led to the exclusion of an unknown number of language minority (LM) and limited English proficient (LEP) students in HS&B. In NELS:88 however, a Spanish language questionnaire was administered to those members of the sophomore cohort who preferred to take this version of the questionnaire.

30/   P. Kaufman, M. McMillen and D. West. A Comparison of High School Dropout Rates in 1982 and 1992. U.S. Department of Education, NCES 96-893.

 


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