Return to Dropout Rates: 1999 Homepage

Executive Summary  
Event and Status Dropout Rates  
Type of Dropout Rates        
Event Dropout Rates        
Status Dropout Rates        
High School Completion Rates  
High School Completion Rates        
Method of High School Completion        
Text Tables and Figures  
Full Report (PDF)  

Conclusions In October 1999, 5 out of every 100 young adults enrolled in high school in October 1998 had left high school without successfully completing a high school program. In total, these dropouts accounted for approximately one-half million of the 10 million 15- through 24-year-olds enrolled in high school in the previous October. These numbers have not changed appreciably in recent years.

The cumulative effect of hundreds of thousands of young adults leaving school each year short of finishing a high school program translates into several million young adults who are out of school, yet lacking a high school credential. In 1999, there were 3.8 million 16- through 24-year-olds who, although not enrolled in school, had not yet completed a high school program. Overall, 11.2 percent of the 34 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States were dropouts. Although there have been a number of year-to-year fluctuations in this rate, over the past 28 years, there has been a gradual pattern of decline that amounts to an average annual percentage change of 0.1 percentage points per year.

The goal of reducing the dropout rate is to increase the percentage of young adults who complete a high school education. Despite the increased importance of a high school education, the high school completion rate has shown limited gains over the last quarter of a century and has been stable throughout most of the 1990s. In 1999, approximately three-quarters of the 18- through 24-year-olds who were not still in high school held regular diplomas (76.8 percent); another 9.2 percent of these youths were reported as having completed by an alternative route such as the GED.

Over the last 10 years, the percentage of young adults completing high school has been relatively stable for whites and blacks. During the same period, the percentage completing high school through an alternative to a regular diploma has increased, with 1999 alternative completion rates of about 9 to 11 percent for white, black, and Hispanic young adults.

The net effect of these recent changes has been stable dropout and high school completion rates for young adults in the 1990s. These findings suggest that the emphasis in recent years on decreasing dropout rates as well as revising standards and high school graduation requirements may have translated into increased use of alternative methods of high school completion, rather than an overall decrease in dropout rates and an increase in the proportion of young adults holding a high school credential.

Top of Page    
  Previous SectionPrevious Section