The cumulative effect of hundreds of thousands of youths leaving school each year short of finishing a high school program translates into several million young people who are out of school, yet lack a high school credential. In 2000, 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, 10.9 percent of the 34.6 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States were dropouts. Although there have been year-to-year fluctuations in this rate, over the past 29 years dropout rates have gradually decreased in a pattern with an average annual decline of 0.1 percentage points per year.The goal of reducing the dropout rate is to increase the percentage of youths who complete a high school education. Despite the increased importance of a high school education for entry to postsecondary education and the labor market, the high school completion rate has shown limited gains over the last three decades and has been stable throughout the 1990s.