Dropout Rates in the United States: 2000

Executive Summary

This report is the 13th in a series of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports on high school dropout and completion rates. It presents data on rates in 2000, the most recent year for which data are available, and includes time series data on high school dropout and completion rates for the period 1972 through 2000. In addition to extending time series data reported in earlier years, this report examines the characteristics of high school dropouts and high school completers in 2000. It shows that while progress was made during the 1970s and 1980s in reducing high school dropout rates and increasing high school completion rates, these rates have remained comparatively stable during the 1990s.

Event Dropout Rates

Event dropout rates for 2000 describe the proportion of youth ages 15 through 24 who dropped out of grades 10-12 in the 12 months preceding October 2000. Demographic data collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS) permit event dropout rates to be calculated across various individual characteristics, including race/ethnicity, sex, region of residence, and income level.
  • Five out of every 100 young adults enrolled in high school in October 1999 left school before October 2000 without successfully completing a high school program. The percentage of young adults who left school each year without successfully completing a high school program decreased from 1972 through 1987. Despite year-to-year fluctuations, the percentage of students dropping out of school each year has stayed relatively unchanged since 1987 (table A and figure A).
  • In 2000, 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 of high school (table 1).
  • In 2000, about three-fourths (75.8 percent) of the current-year dropouts were ages 15 through 18; moreover, about two-fifths (42.0 percent) of the dropouts were ages 15 through 17 (table 1).

Status Dropout Rates

Over the last decade, between 347,000 and 544,000 10th- through 12th-grade students left school each year without successfully completing a high school program (table C1). Status dropout rates represent the proportion of young people ages 16 through 24 who are out of school and who have not earned a high school credential. Status rates are higher than event rates because they include all dropouts in this age range, regardless of when they last attended school.
  • In October 2000, some 3.8 million young adults were not enrolled in a high school program and had not completed high school. These youths accounted for 10.9 percent of the 34.6 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States in 2000 (table A, figure A, and table 3). As noted with event rates, status rates declined from the early 1970s into the late 1980s, but since then have remained stable (figure 2 and table B5).
  • The status dropout rate for Whites in 2000 remained lower than the rate for Blacks, but over the past three decades, the difference between the rates for Whites and Blacks has narrowed (figure 2). However, this narrowing of the gap occurred during the 1970s and 1980s. Since 1990, the gap has remained fairly constant. In addition, Hispanic young adults in the United States continued to have a relatively high status dropout rate when compared to Asian/Pacific Islanders, Whites, or Blacks (table A and table 3).
  • In 2000, the status dropout rate for Asian/Pacific Islander young adults was lower than for young adults from all other racial/ethnic groups. The status rate for Asian/Pacific Islanders was 3.8 percent compared with 27.8 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for Blacks, and 6.9 percent for Whites (table 3).
  • In 2000, 44.2 percent of Hispanic young adults born outside of the United States were high school dropouts. Hispanic young adults born within the United States were much less likely to be dropouts. However, when looking at just those young adults born within the United States, Hispanic youths were still more likely to be dropouts than other young adults (table 3).

High School Completion Rates

High school completion rates represent the proportion of 18- through 24-year-olds, not currently enrolled in high school or below, who have completed a high school diploma or an equivalent credential, including a General Educational Development (GED) credential.
  • In 2000, 86.5 percent of all 18- through 24-year-olds not enrolled in high school had completed high school. Completion rates rose slightly from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, but have remained fairly constant during the 1990s (figure A and table B7).
  • High school completion rates increased for White and Black young adults between the early 1970s and late 1980s, but have remained relatively constant in the 1990s. By 2000, 91.8 percent of White and 83.7 percent of Black 18- through 24-year-olds had completed high school (table A, figure 3, table 4, and table B7).
  • White and Asian/Pacific Islander young adults in 2000 were more likely than their Black and Hispanic peers to have completed high school (table A and table 4).