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Dropout Rates in the United States: 1995

Immigration, Participation in U.S. Schools, and High School Dropout Rates


The dropout rates for Hispanic youth have remained at levels consistently higher than the dropout rates experienced by their white and black peers since the early 1970s (tables 1 and 5). Although a number of factors may contribute to the dropout rates observed for Hispanic youth, previous analyses have shown even higher dropout rates for foreign-born Hispanic youths\36\. What is not clear is what portion of the dropout rate observed for Hispanic youth is attributable to dropouts from U.S. schools, as opposed to immigrants who come to the U.S. without a high school credential and never enter U.S. schools. In addition, questions persist over the role that language limitations may play in determining participation and success in U.S. schools. In 1995, data on country of birth, participation in U.S. schools, and language use and ability may help provide answers to some of these questions.

Table 15Rate, number, and distribution of status dropouts, ages 1624, by race-ethnicity and place of birth: October 1995

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                                        Number of
                           Status         status                          Percent      Percent
                           dropout       dropouts         Population       of all         of
Characteristics             rate      (in thousands)    (in thousands)    dropouts    population
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Total                       12.0          3,876             32,379         100.0        100.0
   Born in U.S.              9.9          2,875             28,935          74.2         89.4
   Foreign-born             29.1          1,001              3,444          25.8         10.6
White, non-Hispanic          8.6          1,887             21,991          48.7         67.9
   Born in U.S.              8.6          1,831             21,242          47.2         65.6
   Foreign-born              7.5             56                749           1.4          2.3
Black, non-Hispanic         12.1            571              4,732          14.7         14.6
   Born in U.S.             12.2            552              4,519          14.2         14.0
   Foreign-born              8.8             19                213           0.5          0.7
Hispanic                    30.0          1,345              4,485          34.7         13.9
   Born in U.S.             17.9            458              2,562          11.8          7.9
   Foreign-born             46.2            887              1,923          22.9          5.9
Other                        6.2             73              1,171           1.9          3.6
   Born in U.S.              5.6             34                611           0.9          1.9
   Foreign-born              6.9             39                559           1.0          1.7
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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.

Immigration

Among all youth 16 through 24 years of age, immigrants are more likely to be status dropouts than the native-born. The status dropout rate of 29.1 percent for immigrants ages 16 through 24 is nearly three times the rate of 9.9 percent for native-born youths (table 15). Consequently, although immigrants comprise about one-tenth of the U.S. population ages 16 through 24, they account for one-quarter of the status dropouts in this age group.

Among the different race-ethnicity groups, only Hispanic foreign-born are at greater risk of dropping out than native-born youths. For Hispanics, the dropout rate of 46.2 percent for immigrants is two and one-half times the dropout rate of 17.9 percent for Hispanic young adults born in the U.S.

A closer look at the immigrant population shows that Hispanic young adults account for 56 percent of all foreign-born 16- through 24-year-olds in the U.S., but close to 90 percent of all status dropouts in the immigrant population (table 16).

Table 16-Rate, number, and distribution of foreign-born status dropouts, ages 16-24, by enrollment in U.S. schools and race-ethnicity: October 1995
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                                            Number of
                              Status          status                       Percent      Percent
                              dropout        dropouts        Population     of all         of
Characteristics                rate       (in thousands)   (in thousands)  dropouts    population
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total                          29.1            1,001            3,444      100.0         100.0
  Ever enrolled in U.S.        13.2              326            2,469       32.6          71.7
  Never enrolled in U.S.       69.3              675              975       67.4          28.3
Hispanic                       46.2              887            1,923       88.6          55.8
  Ever enrolled in U.S.        23.7              261            1,105       26.1          32.1
  Never enrolled in U.S.       76.5              626              818       62.5          23.8
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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.

Recall that the 1995 status dropout rate for all Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds in the U.S. was 30.0 percent. This rate reflects the educational attainment of all Hispanic young adults in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status. However, since only four out of five Hispanic young adults ever enrolled in U.S. schools (table 17), dropout rates that include young Hispanics who have not participated in U.S. schools fail to give an accurate view of the success of Hispanic students in U.S. schools.

In fact, the status dropout rate for Hispanic students ever enrolled in U.S. schools is 19.6 percent, a rate appreciably lower than the aggregate rate of 30.0 percent (table 17). Furthermore, the dropout rate for foreign-born Hispanics who enrolled in U.S. schools is 23.7 percent. Thus, the dropout rate from U.S. schools for Hispanic youths born in the U.S. and the rate for foreign-born Hispanic youths are similar (17.9 percent for U.S. born and 23.7 percent for foreign-born). These rates are still higher than the rates registered for white and black young adults in the same age range (8.6 percent for whites and 12.1 percent for blacks) (table 15). Nevertheless, a third of the 30.0 percent dropout rate registered for all Hispanic youths is due to the large proportion of young Hispanic immigrants who come to this country without a high school education and are not subsequently enrolled in U.S. schools. Some of the young Hispanic immigrants who do not enroll in school in the U.S. may have entered the U.S. beyond what is considered "normal" high school age, and some may have come to the U.S. in search of employment rather than education. However, for some of these youths, language may be a barrier to participation in U.S. schools.

Educational Attainment, Participation in U.S. Schools, and Dropout Rates

Experience and anecdotal evidence both suggest that some number of these Hispanic "dropouts" never enrolled in U.S. schools. Undoubtedly, some young Hispanics arrive in the U.S. in search of employment rather than schooling. But others must find the barriers imposed by language limitations, crowded schools, limited openings in special programs, personal and economic exigencies, cultural differences, and limited first hand exposure to the intrinsic and extrinsic value of high school or post-secondary education so insurmountable that they prevent entry to U.S. schools. For example, in 1995, approximately 43 percent of Hispanic immigrants ages 16 through 24 had not enrolled in school in the U.S. (figure 5). Only ten percent of Hispanic immigrants came to the U.S. with a high school education and never enrolled. One-third never enrolled and did not have a high school education and are counted as dropouts.

Figure 5-Hispanic immigrants, ages 16-24, by high school education status

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. (Readers please note this figure is based on the foreign-born Hispanic population ages 16 through 24 and the two categories on the right of the bar are ever enrolled in U.S. schools and never enrolled in U.S. schools)

Recall that the 1995 status dropout rate for all Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds in the U.S. was 30.0 percent. This rate reflects the educational attainment of all Hispanic young adults in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status. However, since only four out of five Hispanic young adults ever enrolled in U.S. schools (table 17), dropout rates that include young Hispanics who have not participated in U.S. schools fail to give an accurate view of the success of Hispanic students in U.S. schools.

In fact, the status dropout rate for Hispanic students ever enrolled in U.S. schools is 19.6 percent, a rate appreciably lower than the aggregate rate of 30.0 percent (table 17). Furthermore, the dropout rate for foreign-born Hispanics who enrolled in U.S. schools is 23.7 percent. Thus, the dropout rate from U.S. schools for Hispanic youths born in the U.S. and the rate for foreign-born Hispanic youths are similar (17.9 percent for U.S. born and 23.7 percent for foreign-born). These rates are still higher than the rates registered for white and black young adults in the same age range (8.6 percent for whites and 12.1 percent for blacks) (table 15). Nevertheless, a third of the 30.0 percent dropout rate registered for all Hispanic youths is due to the large proportion of young Hispanic immigrants who come to this country without a high school education and are not subsequently enrolled in U.S. schools. Some of the young Hispanic immigrants who do not enroll in school in the U.S. may have entered the U.S. beyond what is considered "normal" high school age, and some may have come to the U.S. in search of employment rather than education. However, for some of these youths, language may be a barrier to participation in U.S. schools.

Table 17-Rate, number, and distribution of Hispanics, ages 16-24, by enrollment in U.S. schools, dropout status, and place of birth: October 1995

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                                    Number of
                       Status         status                          Percent     Percent
                       dropout       dropouts         Population      of all         of
Characteristics         rate      (in thousands)    (in thousands)   dropouts    population
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Total                   30.0          1,345             4,485         100.0        100.0
Never enrolled in
   U.S. schools         76.5            626               818          46.5         18.2
  Dropouts             100.0            626               626          46.5         14.0
  Graduates                                             192                       4.3
Ever enrolled in
   U.S. schools         19.6            719             3,667          53.5         81.8
  Born in U.S.          17.9            458             2,562          34.1         57.1
  Foreign-born          23.7            261             1,105          19.4         24.6
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-Not applicable
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.

Language Usage and Hispanic Dropout Rates

In 1995, four out of five Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds in the U.S. were reported as speaking Spanish at home (table 18)\37\. And, 22 percent of these youths that spoke Spanish at home never attended school in the U.S. (table 19)\38\. In contrast, 96 percent of the Hispanic young adults who spoke only English at home did attend school in the U.S.

Table 18-Rate, number, and distribution of Hispanic status dropouts, ages 16-24, by language spoken at home: October 1995

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                                         Number of
                            Status         status                          Percent     Percent
 Language                   dropout       dropouts         Population       of all        of
 spoken                      rate      (in thousands)    (in thousands)    dropouts   population
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Total                        30.0          1,345             4,485          100.0       100.0
  Speaks only English        20.4            188               921           14.0        20.5
  Speaks Spanish             32.5          1,157             3,564           86.0        79.5
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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.
Among Hispanic youths who attended school in the U.S., dropout rates are similar, regardless of the language spoken at home: 20.3 percent of Hispanics who spoke Spanish at home were status dropouts in 1995 and 17.5 percent of Hispanics who spoke only English at home were status dropouts in 1995. Thus, while a larger percentage of Hispanic youth who spoke Spanish at home never entered U.S. schools (22 percent versus 4 percent), once enrolled, Hispanic students who spoke Spanish at home are as likely to remain in school as their peers who only spoke English at home. However, among the Hispanic students who spoke Spanish at home, English speaking ability is related to their success in school.

Table 19-Rate, number, and distribution of Hispanics, ages 16-24, by language spoken at home, enrollment in U.S. schools, dropout status, and school completion status: October 1995

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                                              Number of
                                 Status         status                          Percent      Percent
                                 dropout       dropouts         Population       of all         of
Characteristics                   rate      (in thousands)    (in thousands)    dropouts    population
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total                             30.0          1,345             4,485          100.0         100.0
Speaks only English               20.4            188               921          100.0         100.0
  Ever enrolled in U.S.           17.5            154               883           82.1          95.9
  Never enrolled in U.S.          88.1             34                38           17.9           4.1
   Dropout                       100.0             34                34                           
   Completed                                                                                   
Speaks Spanish                    32.5          1,157             3,564          100.0         100.0
  Ever enrolled in U.S.           20.3            565             2,784           48.8          78.1
  Never enrolled in U.S.          75.9            592               780           51.2          21.9
   Dropout                       100.0            592               592                           
   Completed                                                      188                           
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------    
Not applicable
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.

English Speaking Ability

Three-quarters (76.3 percent) of the Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds who spoke Spanish at home were also reported as speaking English "well" or "very well" (table 20).\39\ For these young adults, speaking Spanish at home is not an indication of limited English speaking ability. Nearly this entire group attended school in the U.S. (94 percent or 2,560,000 out of 2,718,000). And the dropout rate of 19.2 percent for this group is on a par with the dropout rate of 17.5 percent observed for enrolled Hispanic young adults who spoke only English at home.

The situation is reversed among Hispanic young adults who reported limited English speaking ability. Only one-quarter of this group attended school in the U.S. (224,000 out of 846,000) and a third of those who did attend dropped out. What is more, eighty-one percent of the group who reported speaking English "not well" or "not at all," and also never enrolled in U.S. schools, lacked a high school education.

Table 20-Rate, number, and distribution of Hispanic status dropouts who speak Spanish at home, ages 16-24, by enrollment in U.S. schools and English language ability: October 1995

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                                             Number of
                                Status         status                          Percent      Percent
                                dropout       dropouts         Population       of all         of
Characteristics                  rate      (in thousands)    (in thousands)    dropouts    population
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total                            32.5          1,157             3,564          100.0        100.0
  Speaks English well\1\         21.4            581             2,718           50.3         76.3
  Speaks English not well\2\     68.0            576               846           49.7         23.7
Ever enrolled in U.S. schools    20.3            565             2,784          100.0        100.0
  Speaks English well            19.2            491             2,560           86.9         92.0
   Very well                     17.4            362             2,081           64.1         74.7
   Well                          27.0            129               479           22.8         17.2
  Speaks English not well        32.9             74               224           13.1          8.0
Not enrolled in U.S. schools     75.9            592               780          100.0        100.0
  Speaks English well            57.4             90               158           15.3         20.2
  Speaks English not well        80.7            502               622           84.7         79.8
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1/Consists of those who speak English very well or well.
2/Consists of those who speak English not well or not at all.
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.

Participation in English as a Second Language Instruction

Programs in bilingual education and English as a Second Language (ESL) are intended to broaden the educational and employment opportunities available to youths with limited English ability. In 1995, 12.4 percent of the Hispanic young adults spoke Spanish at home, had participated in ESL instruction, and were reported as speaking English "well" or "very well" (table 21). The 22.3 percent status dropout rate for this group is on a par with the rate of 21.2 percent experienced by the group of Hispanic young adults who spoke Spanish at home and were reported as speaking English "well" or "very well" without any ESL instruction. And both of these rates are similar to the status dropout rate of 20.4 percent experienced by Hispanic youths that spoke only English at home. Taken together, these three groups of Hispanic youths make up approximately 80 percent of all Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds in the U.S. in 1995: 12.4 percent spoke Spanish at home and spoke English "well" or "very well" with ESL instruction, 48.2 percent spoke Spanish at home and spoke English "well" or "very well" without ESL instruction, and 20.5 percent spoke only English at home.

Table 21-Rate, number, and distribution of Hispanics, ages 16-24, by language spoken at home, English language ability, and enrollment in ESL classes: October 1995

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                                                Number of
                                   Status         status                          Percent      Percent
                                   dropout       dropouts         Population       of all         of
Characteristics                     rate      (in thousands)    (in thousands)    dropouts    population
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total                               30.0          1,345             4,485          100.0        100.0
  Speaks only English               20.4            188               921           14.0         20.5
  Speaks Spanish                    32.5          1,157             3,564           86.0         79.5
Speaks English well                 21.4            581             2,718           43.2         60.6
  Ever enrolled in ESL classes      22.3            124               556            9.2         12.4
  Never enrolled in ESL classes     21.2            457             2,162           34.0         48.2
Speaks English not well             68.0            576               846           42.8         18.9
  Ever enrolled in ESL classes      57.1            131               229            9.7          5.1
  Never enrolled in ESL classes     72.1            445               617           33.1         13.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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.

The remaining 20 percent of Hispanic young adults ages 16 through 24 were reported as either speaking English "not well" or "not at all." Twenty-seven percent of these youths reported some prior participation in ESL (57 percent of this group dropped out of school), but the majority (73 percent) reported no ESL instruction (with a status dropout rate of 72 percent) (table 21). In 1995, two-thirds (68 percent) of the Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds in the U.S. who reported limited English speaking ability did not have a high school credential and were not enrolled in school.\40\ Since the majority of these youths are not enrolled in U.S. schools, ESL training offered outside of traditional school settings (for example, community organizations, churches, and adult education programs) may be more likely to reach this group of young Hispanics.

Table 22-Rate, number, and distribution of Hispanics who speak Spanish at home, ages 16-24, with limited English speaking ability, by enrollment in ESL classes and enrollment in U.S. schools: October 1995

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                                                Number of
                                   Status         status                          Percent      Percent
                                   dropout       dropouts         Population       of all         of
Characteristics                     rate      (in thousands)    (in thousands)    dropouts    population
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total                               68.0           576               846           100.0        100.0
Ever enrolled in ESL                57.1           131               229            22.6         27.1
  Ever enrolled in U.S. schools     40.7            47               115             8.0         13.5
  Not enrolled in U.S. schools      73.7            84               114            14.6         13.6
Never enrolled in ESL               72.1           445               617            77.4         72.9
  Ever enrolled in U.S. schools     24.8            27               109             4.7         12.9
  Not enrolled in U.S. schools      82.2           418               508            72.7         60.1
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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.

Educational Attainment Levels of Hispanic Young Adults

The life chances of young Hispanic immigrants without a high school education may be further hampered by the amount of schooling they have completed. This is especially the case for those without a high school credential who never enrolled in U.S. schools. For example, at least 90 percent of high school dropouts in the 16 through 24 age group who attended school in the U.S. completed a seventh or eighth grade education-this holds for all Hispanic dropouts born in the U.S. (98.0 percent) and for foreign-born Hispanics who enrolled and then dropped out of U.S. schools (91.6 percent) (table 23). In contrast, only one-half of foreign-born Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds who did not enroll in school in the U.S. completed a seventh or eighth grade education.

Table 23-Percentage of status dropouts, ages 16-24, completing various grades of school: October 1995

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Hispanics
                                      ---------------------------------------------------------
                                                                 Foreign-born
                                                 ---------------------------------------------- 
                             Total      Born               Enrolled in U.S.    Never enrolled
Percent completing         U.S. Born   in U.S.    Total        schools         in U.S. schools
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Grades 5 or 6               98.9       99.1     86.9           98.0               82.3
  Grades 7 or 8               98.0       98.0     63.4           91.6               51.6
  Grade 9                     86.9       88.4     48.4           71.7               38.6
  Grade 10                    69.9       70.4     30.5           56.4               19.7
  Grade 11                    43.1       47.2     21.6           36.8               15.2
  Grade 12, no diploma         9.5       15.1     10.0           16.3                7.4
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, October
1995, unpublished data.

Many students who drop out of school in the U.S. do so between the ninth and eleventh grades. About 87 percent of the dropouts who were born in the U.S. completed the ninth grade and nearly 70 percent completed the tenth grade, but less than 50 percent completed the eleventh grade. The data for Hispanic youth born in the U.S. are very similar to the data for all U.S. born 16- through 24-year-olds, with about 88 percent completing the ninth grade, 70 percent completing the tenth grade, and 47 percent completing the eleventh grade. The data for foreign-born Hispanic youth who attend schools in the U.S. mirror the same pattern; with about 72 percent completing the ninth grade, 56 percent completing the tenth grade, and 37 percent completing the eleventh grade.\41\

The pattern is different for foreign-born Hispanics who did not enroll in U.S. schools. In this group, only 39 percent completed the ninth grade and only 20 percent had a tenth grade education. The net effect of these differences is that Hispanic dropouts have more grades to make up to reach parity with their white and black peers. A large share of Hispanic youths drop out of school in the U.S., and on average, those who do not attend U.S. schools have completed fewer years of schooling than their peers.

Summary

These data on country of birth and participation in U.S. schools show that the inclusion of immigrant young adults in the aggregate dropout rate for Hispanics has resulted in a substantial increase in the reported dropout rate for Hispanics in the U.S. In 1995, for example, nearly one-half of the Hispanic dropouts were immigrants who never enrolled in U.S. schools. The Hispanic status dropout rate with these immigrants included is 30.0 percent; when they are excluded, the dropout rate for Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds falls to 19.6 percent. Still, this rate is higher than the status dropout rates registered by black and white youths in this age group (12.1 percent for blacks and 8.6 percent for whites).

Data on language usage show that eighty percent of the Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds spoke Spanish at home and about one out of every five of these youths never attended school in the U.S. However, among the Hispanic youths that attended school in the U.S., the dropout rates were similar, regardless of whether the youth spoke only English at home (17.5 percent) or spoke Spanish at home (20.3 percent).

For those youths that spoke Spanish at home, English speaking ability was related to their success in school. The status dropout rate for young Hispanics reported to speak English "well" or "very well" who attended U.S. schools was 19.2 percent, a rate similar to the 17.5 percent status dropout rate observed for enrolled Hispanic youths that spoke only English at home. In contrast, only one-fourth of the Hispanic youths who reported limited English speaking ability attended school in the U.S. and one-third of those who attended dropped out.

Hispanic young adults who received ESL instruction and reported speaking English "well" or "very well" had a dropout rate of 22.3 percent comparable to the rate of 20.4 percent observed for Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds who spoke only English at home. Youth who were reported with limited English speaking ability did not fare as well. About one-quarter of the Hispanic youths with limited English speaking ability had received some ESL instruction, but 57 percent of these youths were dropouts. And, 72 percent of the youths with limited English speaking ability and no ESL instruction were dropouts. This suggests that ESL instruction offered in nonschool settings may be more likely to reach these youths.

Many of the youths with limited English speaking ability (74 percent) are immigrants who never enrolled in U.S. schools, and a number of these youths have completed fewer years of schooling than Hispanic dropouts born in the U.S. or Hispanic dropouts who migrated to the U.S. and attended U.S. schools. As a result, many Hispanic dropouts have more work to do to complete a high school education.


Footnotes:

36/  See for example, F. Bennici and W. Strang. An Analysis of Language Minority and Limited English Proficient Students from NELS:88, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs, August 1995; W.Strang, M. Winglee, and J. Stunkard. Characteristics of Secondary-School-Age Language Minority and Limited English Proficient Youth, U.S. Department of Education, 1993; and P. Kaufman and M. McMillen. Dropout Rates in the United States: 1990. Washington, D.C.: , U.S. Department of Education. NCES 91-053.

37/  These data, like all CPS data in this report, are based on the report of a household respondent rather than reports from each individual in the household.

38/  Five percent of the Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds who spoke Spanish at home completed their high school programs outside of the U.S. These youths have a high school credential, but are reported as never enrolling in U.S. schools.

39/  The question on English speaking ability was only asked of persons who spoke a language other than English at home, thus the data do not include the English speaking ability of Hispanic youths who reported only speaking English at home.

40/  Recall from table 20, that 81 percent of the youths with limited English speaking ability and who never enrolled in U.S. schools did not have a high school credential.

41/  When the percent of Hispanic dropouts who complete each grade is compared for youths born in the U.S. and foreign-born youths who enrolled in U.S. schools, the apparent differences are not statistically significant.




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